The KGB headquarters in the centre of Minsk is known to locals as "Amerikanka". No one is really sure how the sprawling complex got its name, but everyone in Belarus knows it is not a place you want to end up.

With its Corinthian columns and bright yellow walls, the building looks harmless from the outside. But it is in fact a cage for Europe's last prisoners of conscience and the epicentre of a brutal crackdown carried out by the continent's last dictator.

As the Middle East burns with popular anger over the region's lack of democratic progress it is easy to forget that one corner of Europe still steadfastly refuses to abandon its dictatorial past.

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, has ruled his country with an iron fist ever since the republic achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But over the past two months his security forces have gone after his opponents with a ferocity that would not have looked out of place in Soviet times.

Virtually all the presidential candidates who dared to stand against Mr Lukashenko in last December's flawed electionshave been imprisoned or placed under house arrest.Multiple allegations of torture have been made, while candidates have been pressured to denounce each other in video statements. Read full article in The Independent...