Sat, 25 Sep 2021

MINSK -- Belarusian authorities have shut down four more nongovernmental organizations in Minsk as Alyaksandr Lukashenka's crackdown against pro-democracy activists, independent media, and civil rights groups continues.

The closures bring the total number of NGOs shuttered without court decisions since mid-July to at least 65.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said on August 3 that the four newly liquidated groups include the Human Constanta human rights center, the Center to Promote Women's Rights, the Office for the Rights of Disabled People, and the Center for Legal Transformation.

The statement based the shutdowns on the groups' activities being 'different' from what was listed in their charters.

It accused them of distributing information that 'aimed to spread destructive ideas in society, called for economic and political pressure on the country, and supported other efforts damaging national security.'

Two leaders of the Office for the Rights of Disabled People, Syarhey Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski, were arrested in early February on fraud charges.

They were later released and ordered not to leave Minsk as the probe against them continues.

Twenty more NGOs are expected to be shut down via hearings in court.

Belarusian authorities have forcibly expelled or jailed opposition leaders, arrested tens of thousands of people, targeted dozens of NGOs, and refused accreditation to or forced out journalists since a crackdown on massive street protests began after Lukashenka claimed to have won a sixth presidential term in August 2020.

His reelection claim has been dismissed by the beleaguered opposition and the West, which has slapped multiple rounds of sanctions to pressure Lukashenka's regime to ease the crackdown, talk with the opposition, and ensure a new, independent election.

SEE ALSO: Belarusian Athlete Bound For Europe After Refusing To Fly Home From Olympics

The ongoing drama of a Belarusian sprinter who is seeking European asylum after national team managers tried to force her home from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has highlighted the Belarusian regime's willingness to politicize virtually all aspects of life for that post-Soviet country's 9 million people.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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