Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize winner sentenced to 10 years in jail
Ales Bialiatski was charged with financing protests in Belarus after the 2020 presidential election, and smuggling cash from the EU.
Belarusian human rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by a Minsk court on Friday.
Bialiatski, alongside three other human rights activists, was tried on charges of financing protests in Belarus after the 2020 presidential election, which was widely considered fraudulent, as well as of smuggling cash from the EU for his human rights activities. Bialiatski says the trial was politically motivated.
The other three activists, one of whom was tried in absentia, were sentenced to prison terms from seven to nine years.
Belarusian state media published videos in which Bialiatski, who was arrested in July 2021, appeared in court in a metal cage with his hands cuffed behind his back. The cage was guarded by several police officers.
Western diplomats were not allowed in the courtroom.
The Council of Europe branded the verdict “a blatant attack against justice and an attempt to silence independent critical voices and punish them for their legitimate human rights work.”
Łukasz Jasina, a spokesman for Poland’s foreign ministry, tweeted that Warsaw opposes politically motivated trials and calls for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus.
Last month, in his final statement during the trial, Bialiatski called it biased. “This whole epic of 288 volumes, hundreds of searches and interrogations across the country have nothing to do with the pre-trial investigation. There was no fair judicial review, either,” he said.
He also called for “national reconciliation” between the nation’s authorities, and the Belarusian opposition and civil society. Currently, there are almost 1,500 political prisoners in the country, including two dozen independent journalists, according to human rights organizations. “A precondition for this should be the release of all political prisoners, a large-scale amnesty and a halt to repression,” he added.
The verdict is the latest example of persecution of the Belarusian opposition and civil society activists by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko after the suppression of massive street protests against the results of the 2020 presidential election. Lukashenko has ruled since 1994.
In late February, the state prosecutor demanded 19 years in prison for the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania and recently went on trial in absentia.