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Belarus election protestors face criminal charges as EU ups criticism

[JURIST] Key organizers of election protests in the Belarus [JURIST archive] capital city of Minsk who were detained by police [JURIST report] will face criminal charges, Belarus Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov [Interior Ministry website] said Sunday. Thousands of citizens gathered Saturday to demonstrate against alleged election fraud in last Sunday's presidential elections [JURIST report] in which incumbent Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] was reelected to a third term. On Friday, police arrested hundreds of demonstrators and shut down an election protest camp [JURIST report] in Minsk's October Square. Xinhua has more.

The European Union [official website] has meanwhile expressed serious concern about the arrests and has demanded the release of opposition politician Aleksander Kozulin. The Austrian EU Presidency said [press release] Saturday it was "appalled by the violence used against demonstrators by the Belarusian authorities." EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner warned the Belarusian government to adhere to the rules of democracy, "If the Belarussian government does not show remorse, visa bans will probably be sharpened. In concrete terms, that means that those responsible will not be able to travel to EU member states. Foreign assets of Belarusian lawmakers could also be frozen." The EU agreed Friday to impose sanctions, such as a visa ban, on several Belarus leaders, including Lukashenko. Reuters has more.

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