'Heirs of fascism' can't judge me, Belarus leader says of criminal case in Germany

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FILE PHOTO: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko attends the Roundtable Summit Phase One Sessions of Belt and Road Forum at the International Conference Center in Yanqi Lake

KYIV (Reuters) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday brushed off an attempt by 10 Belarusians to file a criminal case against him in Germany for crimes against humanity during a crackdown on street protests.

Speaking two days before Belarus marks its annual holiday to commemorate the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany, Lukashenko said the "heirs of fascism" were in no position to judge him.

"Who are they to judge me? For protecting you and my country?!" he was quoted by the official Belta news agency as saying. "I do not reproach them. But they are the heirs of the generations who unleashed that war."

Belarusian authorities detained tens of thousands of people in a crackdown against a wave of mass protests and strikes after Lukashenko claimed victory in a presidential election last year.

His opponents said the vote was rigged to prolong his 27-year rule, something Lukashenko denies.

The West imposed sanctions on Minsk as protesters emerged from prison with heavy bruises on their bodies and accused security forces of brutality and torture. A top United Nations official called it a "human rights crisis".

The Belarusian authorities have characterised the protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries backed by the West, and described the actions of law enforcement agencies as adequate and necessary.

Lawyers who brought the case for the 10 Belarusians, who are now living across Europe, cited universal jurisdiction laws that allow Germany to try crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

Germany's universal jurisdiction laws were used in February to secure a guilty verdict against a former member of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's security services for abetting the torture of civilians.

(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones)