AN ENTIRE cinema audience has been arrested in Minsk during a screening of a documentary that explores Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko’s violent treatment of protesters.
Police entered the Free Theatre five minutes into a screening of Europe’s Last Dictator and ordered the 20 members of the audience to stand against the wall, before arresting them, reports Telegraf.
The audience was taken to a local police department, fingerprinted and interrogated and when they were released three hours later, some claimed their personal belongings had been damaged. One member of the audience said his memory card had been removed from his camera and another alleged his computer was broken.
The 55-minute film, which won best documentary at the London Independent Film Festival last week, exposes the violent police crackdown of a peaceful protest against a rigged presidential election in 2010.
Directed by Juan Passarelli and Mathew Charles – and narrated by Joanna Lumley – the documentary recounts how riot police stormed Independence Square, beating and arresting over 700 protesters who had rallied to contest an 80 per cent election victory for Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.
Footage from the film shows women on the ground being kicked by police. «Human beings don’t behave like that. Even animals don’t behave like that,» says a woman in the documentary whose brother was imprisoned following the protest.
Belarus’s authoritarian rule has long been criticised by Western nations. In March, the Council of Europe condemned Lukashenko’s decision to execute two men found guilty of bombing the underground in April 2011, killing 15 people, and wounding over 300 others. One of the men, Dmitry Konovalov, confessed to the bombing but later rescinded his testimony claiming it was obtained under duress. Human rights groups argued that there was not enough evidence to convict the pair and said no motive for the killings had been proven in court, reports the BBC.
Former US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice has called the country «the last true remaining dictatorship in the heart of Europe».