Topless Protest Group Claims Belarus Police Abuse

MINSK, Belarus -- A Ukrainian organization of topless women activists says three of its members were abducted by security officers during a protest against Belarus authoritarian president, beaten, humiliated and left naked in a forest.

Belarus plainclothes policemen detain protesters during an opposition action devoted for anniversary of the presidential election in Belarus, Minsk, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. About 30 protesters were arrested.

The group, called FEMEN, is widely known in Ukraine and neighboring countries for its demonstrations in which women bare their breasts to draw attention to an array of causes.

A statement on FEMEN's website Tuesday says the three were seized by agents of the Belarusian KGB at Minsk's train station on Monday evening, several hours after they held a protest against President Alexander Lukashenko.

FEMEN said they were blindfolded and driven in a bus to the Gomel region, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of the capital.

There, they were taken to a forest, beaten and forced to undress, doused with oil and threatened with being set on fire.

Their captors hacked off their hair with knives and turned them loose in the woods, the group said.

The women were able to walk from the forest to a nearby village, the statement said.

"They were able to telephone and told me they were in awful condition, barely alive," the group's leader Anna Gutsol told The Associated Press.

A spokesman for the KGB, Alexander Antanovich, declined to comment on the allegation.

The three had bared their breasts on the steps of the KGB headquarters in Minsk on Monday in a demonstration against Lukashenko on the first anniversary of his re-election.

Agents quickly broke up that demonstration and arrested several journalists and FEMEN's Australian videographer Kitti Green, but the three activists were able to flee, FEMEN said.

It said Green was deported to Lithuania.

Lukashenko has repressed opposition and independent media since becoming leader of the former Soviet republic in 1994.

In December 2010 elections, he was declared winner of a new term, but tens of thousands of protesters assembled to denounce alleged vote fraud.

Police harshly broke up that demonstration and arrested around 700 people, some of whom remain in jail including two of the candidates who opposed Lukashenko.

Source: AP