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In Belarus,just being can lead to arrest

Iron-fisted authorities in Belarus have responded to a burst of creative modes of protest by young protesters with a rather surreal innovation: a law that prohibits standing together and doing nothing.

Written by New York Times | Moscow | Published: July 31, 2011 1:22:59 am

Iron-fisted authorities in Belarus have responded to a burst of creative modes of protest by young protesters with a rather surreal innovation: a law that prohibits standing together and doing nothing.

A draft law published Friday prohibits “joint mass presence of citizens in a public place chosen beforehand,including outdoors,and at a scheduled time for a form of action or inaction planned beforehand and is a form of expression of the public or political sentiments or protest.” Anyone proven to be part of such a gathering would be subject to 15 days of administrative arrest,the draft says.

Recent protests,galvanised by an economic crisis and organised through social networks by Belarussian dissidents based outside the country,have encouraged ingenious methods of expression. People have simultaneously and publicly clapped or strolled,or on occasions had phone alarms go off together.

The ever-subtler expressions of defiance have drawn extraordinary suppressive measures,as security forces engage in a crackdown. Plainclothes policemen have detained nearly 2,000 people since the clapping protests began in June,in many cases because they were seen clapping or standing near people who were.

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