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Gays defiant

Saturday, May 15, 2010    

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MINSK, Belarus (AFP) — Organisers of a gay pride march in Minsk this weekend vowed yesterday to go ahead with the rally despite a ban imposed by Belarus authorities.

"We will hold a parade tomorrow all the same, but we will not announce the time and place to avoid provocations from criminals who would like to physically attack us," organiser Sergei Androsenko said.

The Belarussian authorities banned the march on the grounds that the activists would pass close to a metro line, Androsenko, the chairman of the GayBelarus rights group, said at a news conference.

The organisers earlier this month wrote to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko asking him to permit the parade.

Amnesty International criticised the ban, calling it a "disproportionate and unjustifiable restriction on the freedom of assembly."

"The authorities' refusal constitutes a blatant disregard for equality and the full respect of human rights in Belarus," John Dalhuisen, the group's expert on discrimination in Europe, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The "Slavic Pride" march is being organised together with Russian gay activists led by Nikolai Alexeyev and is planned as part of a festival including films and concerts, the activists said.

Alexeyev led an attempt to hold a banned gay pride event during the Eurovision Song Contest final in Moscow last May, when a handful of activists were dragged away by riot police in front of a crowd of foreign journalists.

The event would be the first of its kind ever held in Belarus, Alexeyev wrote in an article published yesterday on the website of Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

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