KYIV, Ukraine: Thousands of Belarusians streamed to a church in the capital of Minsk on Friday (Nov 20) for the funeral of a protester who was allegedly beaten to death after being arrested by police.
Raman Bandarenka's death on Nov 12 angered opposition supporters who have held near-daily demonstrations against the authoritarian president since early August.
Bandarenka was seized in a Minsk courtyard by men believed to be plainclothes officers, who were removing symbolic ribbons hung there by opposition supporters. He was taken to a police van and human rights advocates say he was beaten there; he died the next day of head injuries.
Police deny responsibility, saying he was injured in a fight, and investigators claim he was drunk. A journalist and a doctor, who reported medical records showing Bandarenka had no alcohol in his blood, were arrested Thursday.
Mourners on Friday stood outside the church holding photos of Bandarenka and the red-and-white ribbons that are an opposition symbol. They later formed a kilometers-long (miles-long) column to walk to the cemetery where he was buried.
Protests have gripped Belarus since the Aug 9 presidential election that official results say gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office. The opposition and some poll workers say the results were manipulated.
More than 19,000 people have been detained - and thousands of them beaten - since the protests began, human rights advocates say.
Western countries have announced an array of sanctions connected with the election and crackdown on protests.
Norway on Friday announced that it was joining with sanctions imposed by the European Union. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said they were expanding sanctions to add the Belarusian information and sports ministers.