Belarus sentences Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatsky to 10 years in prison


A court in Belarus on Friday sentenced one of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners, human rights activist Ales Bialitsky, to 10 years in prison – continuing a brutal crackdown on dissent that began in response to pro-democracy protests in 2020.

Baliatsky, 60, a veteran human rights defender, founded the Viasana Human Rights Center in 1996. He shared the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize with Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), which is working to document Russia and Russian alleged war crimes. Human rights group Memorial, in a rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.

In awarding the prize in October, the Nobel committee specifically called on Belarus to free Beliatsky, who had been arrested on charges of financial crimes widely seen as politically motivated. His decade-long sentence marked the latest display of contempt for the West by the government of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, whom Bialyatsky has long criticized.

Beliatsky and at least two other Viasana activists were indicted and sentenced on Friday on charges of smuggling cash into the country to finance opposition activities. Viasna’s vice-president, Valentsyn Stefanovich, was sentenced to nine years in prison, and the group’s lawyer, Uldzimir Labkovich, received seven years.

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The case was widely seen as political retribution for years of opposition to Lukashenko, who has repeatedly accused his opponents and non-governmental organizations of accepting financial support from the West. All three of the human rights campaigners had pleaded not guilty on Friday.

Bialitsky was jailed in 2020 following mass street protests that erupted after Lukashenko claimed victory in the August 2020 presidential election with 80 percent of the vote, a result widely suspected of fraud. was taken as

Since then, Lukashenko, who presided over the former Soviet state for nearly three decades, has unleashed a shocking wave of repression against protesters. Over 35,000 were arrested, while thousands were beaten by the police. Rights groups also documented cases of torture. Many opposition figures were imprisoned or forced to flee and live in exile.

The country’s opposition leader in exile Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory in the 2020 presidential election, called the sentence of Baliatsky and his allies “horrific”.

“Ales has dedicated his life to fighting against tyranny. He is a true hero of Belarus and will be honored long after the dictator is forgotten,” Takhanovskaya tweeted.

When announcing the Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee wrote: “Ales Bialyatsky was one of the initiators of the democracy movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He devoted his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his country.” has dedicated.”

The Committee noted that Baliatsky had been previously arrested and detained from 2011 to 2014, and was imprisoned at the time the award was announced. “He is still being held in custody without trial,” the committee wrote. “Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr. Beliatsky has not retreated an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus.”

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In his acceptance speech, delivered by his wife, Natalia Pinchuk, Baliatsky said: “Thousands of people are currently behind bars in Belarus for political reasons, and they are all my brothers and sisters. No one can quench the people’s thirst for freedom.” Can stop. In my homeland, the whole of Belarus is in prison. Journalists, political scientists, trade union leaders are in prison, among them I have many acquaintances and friends.

He said, “The courts work like a conveyor belt, convicts are taken to penal colonies, and new waves of political prisoners take their place. This award is dedicated to all my human rights defender friends, all civil activists, tens of thousands of Belarusians who have been beaten, tortured, arrested, jailed. This award belongs to the millions of Belarusian citizens who took action on the streets and online to defend their civil rights. This comes amid a dramatic situation and struggle for human rights in the country exposes.

In his final address to the court, Baliatsky accused the investigators of following orders and trying to shut down Viasana’s work. He urged the authorities to “stop the civil war in Belarus”.

According to Viasna, there are 1,458 political prisoners in Belarus. Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, has been sanctioned internationally for political repression in Belarus, as well as his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for which Belarus served as a launchpad for Russian troops.

One Year of Russia’s War in Ukraine

Pictures of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed – in ways both big and small – since Russia launched its full-scale invasion a year ago. They have learned to survive and support each other in extreme conditions, in bomb shelters and hospitals, in destroyed apartment complexes and ruined markets. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians depicting a year of loss, resilience and fear.

Battle of Attrition: Over the past year, the war has been fueled by a multi-front offensive involving Kiev in the north, largely concentrated with expanding territory to the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian armies and see where the fighting is concentrated.

One year apart: Russia’s invasion, along with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, have forced millions of Ukrainian families to make painful decisions about balancing security, duty and love , the once interconnected life is becoming increasingly difficult to recognize. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.

Deepening Global Divide: President Biden has characterized the Western alliance built during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look reveals that the world is far from united on the issues raised by the Ukraine war. There is plenty of evidence that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions have not deterred Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.

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