Leader Of Belarus Opposition Party Detained Amid Crackdown

MINSK -- The leader of the opposition United Civil Party (AHP) has been detained on unknown charges amid an ongoing crackdown on Belarusians demanding the resignation of the country's authoritarian leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Mikalay Kazlou, a member of the Coordination Council of the Belarusian Opposition (KRBA), disappeared late in the afternoon on March 22 after he sent a text message to his friend, saying: "If I am not around in 15 minutes that will mean I was detained."

AHP said on Facebook hours later that Kazlou had been placed in a detention center in Minsk.

There has been no official announcement by authorities on the situation, but Kazlou told RFE/RL earlier that Minsk police had launched a probe against him, accusing him of disclosing data related to an investigation after he was questioned as a witness in a case against other KRBA members who are accused of calling for people to illegally seize power.

Kazlou added that he was also accused of refusing to sign a document keeping him from disclosing the details of his interrogation.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusians continue to demand the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka amid a brutal crackdown on protesters. The West refuses to recognize him as the country's legitimate leader after an August 9 election considered fraudulent.

Kazlou has led the AHP since 2018. During the presidential election in August last year, his party called on Belarusians not to vote for Lukashenka.

Separately on March 23, a court in the western city of Brest began trying 14 defendants, including one woman, charged with taking part in "mass disorders" over their participation in rallies in the city of Pinsk against the official results of the election, which handed Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

If convicted, the defendants face up to eight years in prison each.

The rallies in Pinsk were part of mass demonstrations that have swept across Belarus since the disputed vote.

Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in which almost 30,000 people have been detained, hundreds beaten, several killed, and journalists targeted in the action.

Lukashenka, who has run Belarus since 1994, and top officials have been slapped with sanctions by the West, which refuses to recognize him as the legitimate leader of the former Soviet republic.