Belarus court jails 600 protesters for up to 15 days
At least 600 people have been jailed for opposing the re-election of Belarus President.
Minsk: A Belarus court Tuesday jailed some 600 people for up to 15 days for taking part in protests against the re-election of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Interfax reported.
"The sentences were issued against more than 580 people in all," the news agency quoted top Minsk police official, Leonid Farmagei, as saying.
"For the most part, these were administrative arrests of between five and 15 days in prison," Farmagei said.
He did not specify how many people faced more serious charges.
Lukashenko vowed Monday to come down hard on all those responsible for taking part in Sunday`s unsanctioned rally against his regime.
But one unnamed police official told RIA Novosti that prosecutors were continuing their investigations and that those found guilty of organising "mass disturbances" would be sentenced for up to 15 years.
The authoritarian president was re-elected to a fourth term with nearly 80 percent of the ballot, with his nearest challenger receiving less than three percent of the vote.
The police also detained seven of the nine challengers to Lukashenko, at least two of whom were reported Monday to be undgergoing interrogation at the headquarters in Minsk of the country`s security service -- still called the KGB.
The police official failed to mention Lukashenko`s presidential rivals in his comments, saying only that the courts had decided to release many of the detained.
"We released a lot of people -- minors, and those with two children," Farmagei was quoted as saying.
"We released several foreign nationals, including journalists," he added.
Media reports said that the police had detained about a dozen reporters. An AFP correspondent was held for 17 hours Monday before being released without an explanation.
"But the most notorious offenders have appeared before the courts," said Farmagei.
The United States said it did not consider the results of the election legitimate and warned that the treatment of protestors by the authorities was "disproportionate".
The European Union`s top diplomat Catherine Ashton, meanwhile, called on Belarus to "immediately release" the opposition leaders and condemned the use of violence.