On Wednesday evening, 26 August, riot police blocked entrances to the Red Church with about a hundred people inside, including journalists and parishioners, during a peaceful rally in Independent Square in Minsk.
In an effort to end weeks of demonstrations challenging the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, several dozens were detained and others disperesed by riot police. Some 100 protesters who found refuge in a Catholic church facing the square were blocked inside.
According to TUT.BY journalist, who happened to be inside, the people behaved calmly, waiting for the situation to be resolved. After about 40 minutes, they were able to leave of the church, the square was already empty by that time. Several security officials patrolled the area.
The crackdown came on the 18th straight day of protests demnding the resignation of the incumbent president, holding new fair election and bringing those responsible for police brutality and torture of peaceful protesters to justice.
Minsk Bishop Yuri Kosobutsky condemned the police action as a violation of freedom of conscience and religion and an insult to believers, catholic.by reported.
“Blocking the entry and exit of people contradicts the constitutionally guaranteed right of citizens to freedom of conscience and religion, offends the feelings of believers and goes beyond the laws of man and God,” the bishop said.
Bishop’s vicar of Mogilev and the Mogilev region, Bishop Alexander Yashevsky also expressed his discontent. The hierarchs hope that such actions of law enforcement agencies on the territory of the shrines will never be repeated.
“It’s a clear act of intimidation. The authorities have stopped beatings, but fear and threats remain their main weapons,” Yashevsky said.
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