MINSK Authorities in Belarus may charge five former presidential candidates being held on suspicion of organising protests over the disputed vote in the former Soviet republic last weekend, police told Reuters on Thursday.
The five candidates and 14 other opposition activists detained in a crackdown on protests over the vote on Sunday will not be released and may face charges of "organising mass disorder," Minsk police spokesman Alexander Lastovsky said.
They could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Several hundred Belarussian riot police used batons and shields to disperse a crowd of at least 10,000 protesting at the election of Alexander Lukashenko for his fourth term and demanding a second round of voting.
Many were beaten and more than 600 activists, journalists and ordinary Belarussians were detained.
The European Union and the United States condemned the police violence and the arrests.
Among the detained candidates are poet Vladimir Neklyayev, former deputy foreign minister Andrei Sannikov and a leader of Belarus Christian democratic party Vitaly Rymashevsky.
Neklyayev was beaten by the police and detained at the start of the protests. Sannikov and Rymashevsky were also badly beaten, their lawyers said, although Lukashenko said after the election that the police acted within the law.
"When I saw my client he was in a horrible state," Pavel Sapelko, Sannikov's lawyer told Reuters. "His leg was beaten or twisted, he couldn't move on his own, bruises on hands. He did not receive any medical treatment."
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Louise Ireland)