Belarus opposition trapped in mobile network

Belarusian police have reportedly collected data on all mobile phone users who took part in a mass protest in Minsk against the December 19 vote results that secured Aleksandr Lukashenko a fourth term in office.

Two weeks after the rally was suppressed and about 600 arrested, the fierce political crackdown on the Belarusian opposition is continuing. And thanks to modern technology which makes it possible to discover the location of mobile phone users the police are now hot on the tracks of thousands of other protesters.

According to news outlet, Belarusian law enforcement agencies gathered information on those who were at Minsk’s central square through cell phone providers. Now they are ringing people up and inviting them “to come tomorrow and give explanations on their presence at the square”.

Those who are refusing to accept the invitation and demand official summons are reportedly being pressured. Such information is being shared on Belarusian social network sites, where internet users are discussing calls from police and sharing ideas on what to say and how to behave when at the police station.

Meanwhile, the US and the EU have urged the Belarusian leadership to immediately release four presidential candidates and other protesters detained after the election. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton also slammed Minsk’s decision to shut down the office of Europe’s top rights watchdog – the OSCE – after its criticism of the presidential election.

“The mandate of the mission is not completed, as the OSCE's critical assessment of the presidential elections indicates. The elections and their aftermath – particularly the continuing detention of presidential candidates and new detentions and raids targeting the media – represent a step backwards in the development of democratic governance in Belarus,” a joint statement issued on Tuesday reads.