Minsk: The Leninsky District Court in Minsk on Friday sentenced Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski to 10 years in a maximum security penal colony and fined him about USD 65,000, TASS reported. Ales Bialiatski, who heads the unregistered Vesna Human Rights Center, was found guilty of criminal charges registered against him.
Bialiatski was detained in August 2011 and sentenced in November to 4.5 years in a maximum security penal colony for tax evasion. In June 2014, Ales Bialiatski was released before the end of his sentence, as per the TASS report. In October 2022, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Ales Bialiatski.
Other reps of Vesna sentenced too, fine of $40,000 imposed
Vesna representatives Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich, who was implicated in the case along with Bialiatski, were sentenced to 9 and 7 years, respectively, in a maximum security penal colony.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Solovyov, who is currently outside of Belarus, was sentenced to eight years in prison, as per the TASS report. The court imposed a fine of around USD 40,000 each upon each defendant.
Vesna reps detained in July 2021
The Vesna Center representatives were detained in July 2021, as per the news report. According to investigators, Bialiatski and the other Vesna members involved in the case from April 2016 to July 2021 cashed out funds received in Lithuania from various organizations and foundations on the bank accounts of a foreign entity under their control.
These funds were moved across the customs border of the Eurasian Economic Union with the help of other people in several undeclared tranches, as per the TASS report. These actions are regarded as a crime under Part 4, Article 228 of the Belarusian Criminal Code, which establishes liability for smuggling of contraband by an organized group, carrying a maximum penalty of 12 years of incarceration.
Tweets condemning Ales Bialiastski's arrest pour in
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has criticized the sentencing of Ales Bialiatski. Tsikhanouskaya tweeted, "The sentencing of @viasna96 human rights defenders today - including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski - is simply appalling. Ales has dedicated his life to fighting against tyranny. He is a true hero of Belarus & will be honoured long after the dictator is forgotten."
UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk has said that he is concerned by the sentencing of four rights defenders, including Ales Bialiatski. UN Human Rights in a tweet wrote, "Concerned by today's prison sentencing of 4 rights defenders, incl Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, on smuggling & extremism-related charges. UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk urges ALL govts to end arbitrary detention once & for all."