Belarus said it will release detained protesters after reports of torture and police brutality at demonstrations over its contentious election result
- Belarus has promised to release every protester detained during this week's anti-government demonstrations.
- Protests erupted following Sunday's presidential election, which was widely condemned as rigged. At least 6,000 people have been detained.
- "We will release everyone by 6 a.m.," the deputy interior minister said Thursday night.
- Belarus' interior minister also said on Friday that the beatings were "unfortunate" and that he wanted to "take responsibility" for the sufferings.
- Protesters told multiple outlets that they were beaten and tortured repeatedly at the protest sites, at the police station, and at the detention center.
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Belarus has pledged to release thousands of protesters following violent clashes which saw hundreds injured and the police accused of torture.
At least 6,000 protesters have been detained since Sunday, when mass demonstrations erupted over the country's election result. Incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko declared himself the winner, with what his office said was 80% of the vote, though critics say the vote was rigged.
"We will release everyone by 6 a.m.," Alexander Barsukov, the deputy interior minister, told reporters in Minsk on Thursday night.
As of early Friday afternoon local time, it is not clear if all detainees have been freed yet. Deutsche Welle reported on Friday morning that around 1,000 detainees had been released.
The government's pledge came as detainees and activists reported of torture and police brutality.
"They would put four men in a 1.5 meter (5 foot) wide cell, three were standing but they made the fourth one crawl inside like a dog and stand on his knees," one detainee told CNN.
Another who was at a detention center told the network: "People are being beaten up, tortured from the moment when they are detained in the streets."
"Then they are taken to local police station, beaten there and then they bring them here after a day or two, and the beatings and torture continue."
Another detained protesters told the BBC: We were forced to stand in the yard all night. We could hear women being beaten. I don't understand such cruelty."
The photo below, taken by Agence France-Presse, also showed two protesters showing traces of what they said were beatings upon their release from Okrestina prison in Minsk early Friday morning.
Rights groups like Amnesty International have also reported observing multiple cases of torture.
Two protesters have also died since te demonstrations began: One died in police custody, while the other died during a rally, the BBC reported.
Yuri Karayev, the Belarusian interior minister, said on Friday that the police violence was "unfortunate," BBC Monitoring reported.
"I want to take responsibility … for those who suffered due to what is now called violence," he said, according to BBC Monitoring.
On Wednesday, the state-run network Belarus 24 broadcast a segment in which detained protesters, with their hands bound, were humiliated, made by guards to promise never to question the legitimacy of the regime again.
EU officials, protesters, and opposition parties have condemned the election result as rigged.
The Belarus opposition leader reappeared in neighboring Lithuania days after challenging the election result. Her departure was reportedly part of a deal to get her chief of staff out of jail.
"The elections were neither free nor fair," the EU Council said in a Wednesday statement.
"We call on the Belarusian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all detained," the council added.
Access to the internet in Belarus has also been restricted since Monday.
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