Ales Bialiatski Sentenced to Prison

The Belarusian civil society received a severe blow today. Ales Bialiatski, Chariman of the human rights organisation Viasna, was sentenced for tax evasion to four and a half years in prison and confiscation of property.

“The verdict is completely unacceptable. With today’s ruling, the regime has lowered the respect for human rights in the country even further. This is a clear warning to the entire civil society, in which Ales Bialiatski is a central figure. The verdict is directly related to Ales Bialiatski’s and Viasna’s work for human rights in Belarus”, said Marie Månson, Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.

The trial of Ales Bialiatski began on November 2, despite international protests and demands for his release. Bialiatski was arrested after Lithuania and Poland had disclosed information on his bank accounts on the Belarusian authorities’ request. The indictment was based on this information. Since Viasna has been denied to register and operate legally in Belarus, the organisation was forced to open private bank accounts abroad.

The verdict will be appealed. Viasna will hold a press conference at 2 pm local time.

In 2006 Ales Bialiatski recieved the Per Anger-prize with the following motivation “Due to his fearless fight for people’s rights, his struggle against oppression of human rights …” The prize was established in 2004 by the Swedish Government, to promote initiatives supporting human rights and democracy, and the Living History Forum is commissioned to organise the appointment of prize winners.