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Chair of Belarusian human rights center "Viasna" sentenced to 10 years in prison

03.03.2023, 16:03
Photo: Viasna
Photo: Viasna

In Belarus, Viasna chair and Nobel Peace Prize 2022 laureate Ales Bialiatski has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The sentence was passed on March 3 by the Leninsky District Court of Minsk, according to the website of the human rights organization "Viasna".

Together with Bialiatski, three more human rights activists have been sentenced. All of them were found guilty of "smuggling as an organized group" and "financing collective actions that grossly violate public order."

Viasna deputy chair and the vice-president of FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) Valiantsin Stefanovic has been sentenced to 9 years in prison; Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign coordinator Uladzimir Labkovich – to 7 years in prison; and Viasna human rights activist Zmitser Salauyou – to 8 years (in absentia).

During the pronouncement of the verdict, the human rights activists stayed handcuffed with their arms twisted behind their backs. Previously all of them had pleaded not guilty.

On the eve of the sentencing, 21 international human rights organizations released a statement demanding the release of human rights defenders and the dropping of all charges against them. On the evening of March 2, solidarity actions took place in Warsaw and Gdańsk, Poland.

According to the indictment, the human rights activists, "as an organized group between April 4, 2016 to July 14, 2021, were transferring the money received from various structures and funds to bank accounts of a foreign organization controlled by them under the condition that the money be used on the territory of Belarus for illegal activities and funding of Viasna and other organizations. Then, with the help of other persons, acting with a shared intention, they oversaw the illegal transfer of large amounts of money, which are kept on the territory of Lithuania and amount to a total of... at least EUR 201,000 and USD 54,000, across the customs border of the Eurasian Economic Union."

According to the court filings, "these people, in the specified group as well as with other persons, deliberately prepared citizens for participation in collective actions that grossly violate public order, and provided funding and material support for such actions under the guise of human rights and charity activities."

As IMI reported, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Ukrainian human rights organization "Center for Civil Liberties", Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, and to the Russian human rights organization "Memorial".

The chair of the Belarusian human rights center "Viasna", Ales Bialiatski, was detained on July 14, 2021. Viasna Center stated that the persecution they were facing was politically motivated, as the organization only conducted peaceful activities aimed at defending human rights and basic freedoms in Belarus, which are guaranteed both by the country's constitution and international law in the field of human rights.

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