Belarus Court Sentenced Nobel Laureate to 10 Years in Prison. Here is why?
On Friday, Belarus Court handed down a 10-year prison sentence to Ales Bialiatski, a prominent human rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2022.
Ales Bialiatski, along with three other leaders of the Viasna human rights center that he founded, was found guilty of financing activities that violated public order and smuggling, according to a report by Viasna.
Valiantsin Stefanovich received a nine-year sentence, Uladzimir Labkovicz was sentenced to seven years, and Dzmitry Salauyou was given an eight-year prison term in absentia.
Following the widespread protests in response to the controversial 2020 election that granted Alexander Lukashenko a new presidential term, Ales Bialiatski and two associates were arrested and imprisoned. Dzmitry Salauyou, on the other hand, managed to flee the country prior to his arrest.
Alexander Lukashenko, who has governed Belarus with an authoritarian grip since 1994, initiated a brutal crackdown on the protestors, the largest in the nation’s history, resulting in over 35,000 detentions and several instances of police brutality.
The trial, which occurred in secret, saw Bialiatski and his colleagues, who have been incarcerated since their arrest 21 months ago, held in a caged enclosure within the courtroom.
Belarus’ state news agency Belta released photos from the courtroom on Friday, revealing Ales Bialiatski, dressed in black, appearing pale but composed.
According to Viasna, all four activists, including Bialiatski, maintained their innocence after the verdict was announced.
During his final statement to the court, Bialiatski implored the authorities to “put an end to the civil war in Belarus.” He also noted that he had realized, from examining the case files, that “the investigators were following their orders: to detain Viasna human rights advocates at any cost, eliminate Viasna, and halt our activities.”
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled Belarusian opposition leader, condemned the court’s ruling on Friday, calling it “appalling.” In a tweet, Tsikhanouskaya urged everyone to take action to “combat this shameful injustice” and secure the activists’ release.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a non-governmental organization dedicated to upholding human rights in practice, expressed shock at the recent sentencing of its Belarusian colleagues in Minsk, calling the verdict an act of cynicism.
Secretary General Berit Lindeman issued a statement denouncing the trial and the Lukashenko regime, stating that it punishes human rights defenders, such as their colleagues, for opposing oppression and injustice.
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