Belarus bars man from breathing in public

Dec. 1, 2011 at 3:30 AM
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BARANOVICHI, Belarus, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Belarusian officials prohibited a local businessman from holding a breathing exercise in a central square, saying it would violate laws on public rallies.

Nikolai Chernous asked City Hall to permit him to hold a 2-hour breathing exercise near the Lenin memorial in downtown Baranovichi, The Moscow Times reported Wednesday.

Baranovichi officials denied the request, contending the breathing exercises would violate several clauses of the law on rallies.

In the past, Chernous tried to hold a bike rally and a marathon walk "against bureaucracy," however, both were also banned.

To the dismay of local and international rights groups and activists, Belarus overhauled its legislation on public rallies and now prohibits all kinds of public events, including picket lines and flash mobs, the newspaper said.

Law enforcement said the law is designed to boost public safety, but critics say it is an attempt to suppress public criticism of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 2004.

After Lukashenko's victory in last December's presidential election, which many observers said was rigged and undemocratic, many rallies were organized online and made to look like non-political flash mobs, but were nonetheless broken up by police.

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