Belarus: Nobel Prize Winner Ales Bialiatski Sentenced to a Decade in Jail

Ales Bialiatski, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist, has been found guilty of smuggling by a court in Minsk and sentenced to ten years in a heavily guarded prison colony.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Belarus: Nobel Prize Winner Ales Bialiatski Sentenced to a Decade in Jail

Ales Bialiatski, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist, has been found guilty of smuggling by a court in Minsk and sentenced to ten years in a heavily guarded prison colony. The verdict has elicited strong reactions both within the Belarusian opposition and in several Western European countries.

Condemnation from the Opposition

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya condemned the verdict against Bialiatski and other activists who were tried alongside him, calling it "horrifying." In a statement, she declared, "We must do everything to fight against this shameful injustice and free them."

International Reactions

Germany characterized the ten-year prison sentence as an attack on civil society by Minsk.

The European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also condemned the verdict, describing the trials as "sham" and "yet another appalling example of the Lukashenko regime trying to silence those who stand up in defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people in Belarus."

Award-winning Efforts

In awarding the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize to Mr.

Bialiatski, the Nobel Prize committee noted that the Belarusian government had "for years tried to silence him." Nobel Peace Prize Secretary, Ms. Reiss-Anderson, highlighted the various forms of harassment faced by Bialiatski, including his arrest, imprisonment, and denial of employment.

Heartbreaking Sentences

Kostya Staradubets, a spokesperson for Bialiatski's organization, Viasna, expressed his heartbreak at the sentences imposed on the three activists. In an interview with the BBC World Service's Newshour program, he said, "We knew that our three colleagues would get long prison terms but anyway it's still a shock, it's breaking our hearts, not only the [prison] terms are long but the conditions also very horrific.

We call [the conditions] torture actually because they're being held for several months in a 19th Century building, poorly lit cells with no fresh air, no sunlight, poor food, little or no healthcare."

A Pro-democracy Champion

Bialiatski has been a pro-democracy activist for decades and has documented human rights violations in Belarus since the 1980s.

He founded Viasna, or Spring, in 1996 following a referendum that consolidated the authoritarian powers of President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia. Bialiatski was arrested in 2020 amidst widespread protests against the Lukashenko regime.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 along with human rights groups from Russia and Ukraine for their "extraordinary efforts in documenting war crimes, human rights violations and abuse of power" in their respective countries.

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