Belarus police detain journalists, protesters at demonstration

MINSK, Sept 18 Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:19pm IST

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MINSK, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Police in Belarus broke up a small protest on Tuesday against a parliamentary election the two main opposition parties say will be a fake exercise, and detained several protesters as well as a group of journalists.

The journalists, who included Reuters' Minsk-based photographer, a photographer from the Associated Press (AP) and a television film crew from German channel ZDF, were released after about two hours.

They were subjected to a search at a police station and had their cameras taken away. When they were released, the photographers' cameras were returned to them but the pictures they had taken had been erased. ZDF retained its footage.

The human rights group Vesna-96 said four opposition activists detained during the protest against next Sunday's election were still being held by police.

"We were photographing the picket when a bus came up and men in civilian clothes jumped out and quite aggressively began to push everyone into the bus," said Reuters photographer Vasily Fedosenko.

The AP photographer was struck in the face and his spectacles broken, Fedosenko said.

When the journalists were released, a plain-clothes policeman apologised for the incident, but did not explain why they had been detained.

A spokesman for Minsk police said the journalists had been released, but made no further comment.

Belarus's two main opposition parties have denounced Sunday's vote as a sham and have urged people to boycott it.

The poll for the 110-seat chamber takes place two years after police cracked down on street protests following a presidential election which installed President Alexander Lukashenko for a fourth term in power.

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