Nobel Peace Prize Winner Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison in Belarus
A court in Belarus has sentenced Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski to 10 years in prison, making him the fourth person to receive the award while in prison or detention. The charges against him are reportedly linked to his human rights activities and the provision of help to victims of politically motivated persecution by his Viasna human rights organization.
Ales Bialiatski is a veteran of the human rights movement in Belarus, having established Viasna in 1996 in response to the brutal crackdown of street protests that year by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. He has documented human rights abuses in Belarus since the 1980s and won the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes referred to as the “Alternative Nobel,” in 2020.
Mr Bialiatski was one of three winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Memorial, a Russian human rights organization, and the Ukrainian human rights organization, Center for Civil Liberties. He was recognized for his work promoting democracy and human rights in Belarus.
He was detained in July last year and charged with smuggling cash into Belarus to fund his group’s activities, but is widely recognized as being persecuted for his opposition to Lukashenko. His trial was criticized for its questionable conduct, with exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya describing the charges as a “farce” and saying they were being judged “simply for their years-long fight for the rights, dignity and freedom of the people of Belarus.”
Mr Bialiatski and two other Viasna activists, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich, were sentenced to nine and seven years in prison respectively. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also slammed the charges and trial, saying they were being judged “simply because of their years-long fight for the rights, dignity and freedom of people in Belarus.”
The case has been widely condemned by international human rights groups, with Amnesty International calling it a “flagrant violation of human rights” and urging for the immediate and unconditional release of the activists. Rights groups say there are around 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus, with many having been arrested since the suppression of the 2020 protests.
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