Belarus Jails Belarus Nobel Peace Winner For 10 Years; Others Also Sentenced
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy Mews
MINSK/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – A court in autocratically-ruled Belarus has sentenced Ales Bialiatski, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in November, “to 10 years imprisonment,” said Viasna, the rights group he helped found.
Three other prominent activists also received lengthy prison terms on what their supporters view as trumped-up charges, Worthy News learned.
Bialiatski has been a symbol of the human rights movement since the late 1980s when Belarus was part of the then-Soviet Union.
He was detained last year amid a violent crackdown in Belarus following the disputed 2020 elections in which authoritarian President Aleksandr Lukashenko claimed victory.
Lukashenko thanked Moscow for helping squash protests and allowing Belarusian territory to be used by Russian troops as a staging ground for their invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
On Friday, Judge Maryna Zapasnik of the Lieninski District Court of Minsk reportedly said Bialiatski and the other three defendants were guilty of “smuggling by an organized group.” Citing articles of the Criminal Code, she also found them guilty and “financing of group actions grossly violating the public order.”
“[Our] chair and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski received ten years in a medium-security penal colony,” said Viasna in a statement obtained by Worthy News.
In addition, “Viasna deputy chair and vice-president of [the advocacy group] FIDH Valiantsin Stefanovic received nine years in a medium-security penal colony. Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign coordinator Uladzimir Labkovich received seven years in a medium-security penal colony. And human rights defender Zmitser Salauyou was sentenced to eight years in a penal colony in absentia,” Viasna explained.
The sentences imposed are two years less than those requested by prosecutor Aliaksandr Karol, trial observers said.
Bialiatski was also fined 185,000 rubles (some $69,000), while Stefanovic, Labkovich, and Salauyou were fined 111,000 Belarusian rubles (about $41,300), as the prosecutor requested, Viasna said.
And in another financial setback for those sentenced, the court reportedly “ordered to collect from the defendants 752,438 rubles and 62 kopecks (almost $297,650), which they had allegedly “obtained by criminal means” through “smuggling by an organized criminal group.”
The verdict did not immediately come into force as human rights activists can appeal it, Viasna said.
However, Friday’s published ruling underscored broader international concerns about the human rights situation in Belarus.
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