According to Russia’s state-owned news outlet Tass, a court in Belarus sentenced Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ales Bialiatski to 10 years in prison on Friday (March 3), a decision that is sure to draw harsh criticism from Western human rights organizations.
In 2020, amid a wave of upheaval in Belarus, Bialiatski, a pro-democracy activist and the founder of the Viasna human rights organization, gave legal and financial support to demonstrators. Bialiatski was found guilty of funding protests and tax evasion.
He has claimed that he is being victimized because of politics.
According to rights organizations, Belarus is home to about 1,500 political prisoners.
After the suppression of the 2020 protests, which started when Alexander Lukashenko declared he was re-elected in allegedly rigged votes, many people have been imprisoned.
After protracted public demonstrations against the hotly contested elections that had maintained Lukashengko in power the year before, Bialiatski was detained in 2021.
The police brutalized protesters, and during the demonstrations, Lukashenko detractors were frequently detained and imprisoned.
Bialiatski, one of three Nobel Peace Prize recipients in 2022, has been detained without being tried since his arrest.
Bialiatski was “the face of the organization,” according to Belarusian writer Hanna Lubiakova, who said that Viasna had been singled out by Minsk authorities because it assisted victims of repression in paying for fines and attorneys.
On presenting the 2022 prize, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said that “government authorities have frequently endeavored to suppress Ales Bialiatski.
At the time, she noted, “Ales Bialiatski has not backed down in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus despite enormous personal hardship.