Belarus on Friday handed a 10–year jail term to Nobel Prize–winning activist Ales Bialiatski, drawing strong international condemnation.
The human rights activist Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday by a court in his native Belarus, which found him guilty of financing protests in a trial condemned by the United States and the European Union as a “sham”.
The 60-year-old was awarded the Nobel Prize in October for promoting human rights and democracy. Bialiatski, arrested in 2021, and three co-defendants were charged with financing protests and smuggling money.
Belarus sentences Nobel Laureate Ales Bialiatski to 10 years imprisonment.
Belarusian state news agency Belta confirmed the court had handed down lengthy jail sentences to all the men, including a decade in prison for Bialiatski. However, he denied the charges against him, saying they were politically motivated.
The other three men convicted were Valentin Stefanovich, sentenced to nine years, Vladimir Labkovich to seven years, and Dmitry Solovyov, who received eight years but was not in court.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said Bialiatski and the three other activists had been unfairly convicted, describing the court verdict as “appalling”.
“We must do everything to fight against this shameful injustice & free them,” she said on Twitter.
Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize winner sentenced to 10 years
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on Twitter for the men’s immediate release, described the court ruling as a “sham” and “an attempt to suppress democracy and human rights in Belarus.”
Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, described their trials as an attempt to silence them, a tactic he said would fail. “Lukashenko will not succeed. Their call for freedom is loud, even behind bars,” Borrell said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the trial “a farce”. “The Minsk regime is fighting civil society with violence and imprisonment,” Baerbock wrote on Twitter.
Bialiatski Imprisoned for 10 years: Belarus
Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told a briefing in Geneva that the United Nations body was disturbed by the trial and worried by “the lack of fair trial proceedings and access to an independent judiciary in Belarus”.
That, she said, placed human rights defenders at risk of criminal prosecution for their legitimate activities.
Bialiatski, the most prominent Belarusian jailed.
At the end of 2022, at least 1,446 people – including 10 children – were being held, having faced or still facing criminal proceedings, said Shamdasani, without elaborating.
Bialiatski, also a Soviet-era dissident, was one of the most prominent of hundreds of Belarusians who were jailed during a crackdown on months of anti-government protests that erupted in the summer of 2020 and continued into 2021.
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