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Poet and Belarusian PEN president Vladimir Neklyayev detained in Minsk

(PEN American Center/IFEX) - New York City, May 18, 2010 - PEN American Center denounced the coordinated series of raids on the homes and offices of a number of writers, journalists, and activists in Minsk and other cities across Belarus today. Poet Vladimir Neklyayev, president of the Belarusian PEN Center and leader of the civil society organization "Speak the Truth," was detained and is apparently still being held at the Leninski district police station in Minsk.

According to PEN's information, Belarusian officials were specifically targeting the "Speak the Truth" campaign, which was launched in February of this year. Its offices were searched, and all computers, books, leaflets and other materials were confiscated. Police also searched the homes of several journalists and activists associated with the campaign, and at least 20 are believed to have been detained. This is the second such coordinated raid on civil society organizations in Belarus since March.

"We are shocked by this brazen attempt to interfere with legitimate civil society organizations and are deeply concerned about our colleague, Vladimir Neklyayev, president of Belarusian PEN, as well as a number of other writers targeted in this raid," said Larry Siems, Freedom to Write and International Programs Director at PEN American Center. "Neklyayev and his associates should be released immediately, their materials returned, and they should be free to continue practicing their professions according to international law."

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