Belarusian authorities released about 1,000 detained protesters on Friday in an attempt to calm the anger among the population. In interviews, the released protesters say they have been severely abused during their imprisonment and describe how they were treated.

Several protesters say they are locked in small cells by the dozen. They also received only water and no food from the security guards for days on end.

Images show that protesters are covered in bruises. Others also suffered cuts or broken bones during their time in prison. According to local media, some released protesters had to be taken to hospital immediately.

Two demonstrators were killed during the demonstrations. More than 6,700 people were arrested. President Alexandr Lukashenko said he would be tough on the protesters.

The demonstrations followed Lukashenko's massive electoral win, who claimed to have received more than 80 percent of the vote. Hardly anyone believes this result and almost everyone assumes that fraud has taken place.

According to professor of international politics André Gerrits, this election result showed that Lukashenko "does not take the population seriously at all". "At a certain point you reach a critical point: you get a cocktail of emotions," said Gerrits, who suspects that the demonstrations may well contribute to a turning point in Belarus.

See also: Is 'mega victory' Lukashenko a turning point for Belarus?

Tough approach leads to more demonstrations

The harsh treatment of protesters by the president has not yet had the intended effect. On the contrary, thousands of protesters took to the streets again on Friday and the situation in the country has now attracted worldwide attention.

Employees of several state-owned companies are on strike Friday because of the situation in the country. There are also reports of police officers refusing to act against demonstrators.

The government reported on Friday that it had the situation under control. The Belarusian interior minister also denied on Thursday that protesters had been mistreated.

Lukashenko's biggest opponent in the elections, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, fled to neighboring Lithuania last week for fear of reprisals. From there she called for a recount of the votes.

Lukashenko faces the biggest demonstrations during his 26-year reign.


Released Belarusian prisoners show the consequences of abuse

European ministers discuss 'urgent' situation

On Friday, foreign ministers of the European Union will meet to discuss the situation in Belarus. New sanctions against the Eastern European country are not ruled out.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Belarus to release all protesters. The Netherlands also spoke out about the worrying situation in Belarus.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called for new sanctions on Friday. However, this requires unanimity and Hungary is expected to vote against the sanctions.

See also: 'Europe can no longer ignore fraud and violence in Belarus'