A court in Belarus found Nobel laureate Ales Beliatski guilty of “smuggling” and the “repeated violation of the order of holding mass events” and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Bialiatski is a Belarusian human rights activist and chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center. Numerous International human rights organizations have recognized him as a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience. In 2022, while in custody, Bialiatski was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Russia’s Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties.
The other defendants in the case, members of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Uladzimir Labkovicz and Valiantsin Stefanovich, received sentences of 7 and 9 years respectively. Dzmitry Salauyou, who fled Belarus, was sentenced to 8 years in prison in absentia.
None of the defendants pleaded guilty to any of the charges brought against them.
July 2021, and were later charged with tax evasion and organizing and financing group actions that grossly violated public order. Four months before the trial, the investigation reclassified the charges to “smuggling” and “financing actions violating public order.”
Bialiatski commented on the charges:
“The criminalization of aid to victims of political repression, which suddenly occurred after May 2020, is [both] immoral and inhumane. It is unjust as this law has not changed, it has stayed the same for many years. And suddenly, from May 2020, it began to be applied against humanitarian aid to people affected [by political repression].”
After the 2020 protests in Belarus, Viasna’s human rights defenders documented torture committed by the Belarusian authorities, as well as other human rights violations, and helped pay for fines, legal fees, and meals for protesters. A court in Belarus later recognized these actions as training citizens to violate public order.