As the Belarusian authorities confiscated Viasna’s office the human rights centre has moved to For Freedom movement’s place.
The apartment where the human rights defenders had worked for 12 years belonged to Ales Bialiatski who was sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment and seizure of property for alleged tax evasion. The fact of his holding bank accounts in Poland and Lithuania gave the grounds for criminal prosecution. The cash standing to the credit of accounts was used for human rights defence activity: the centre financially supported the people affected by Lukashenka’s regime. In court Bialiatski stated that he had no other possibility of getting financial aid from foreign backers.
According to human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich, over the years of its existence thousands of people have visited the office and got help; press conferences and seminars having been held there. “We have always been playing fair in spite of the lack of registration since 2003 and as a consequence being under threat of persecution,” he stressed.
The seizure of the office is a serious blow to the organisation but the human rights defenders are about to fully resume its activities in a new office, Stefanovich said. “It is crucial we have such an office because a human rights centre can not be present [only] in Internet virtual reality. We give top priority to our work with people who must know where they can find us,” he noted.
For the time being, Viasna representatives are receiving citizens in For Freedom movement office. “Those who work with information and post to our web site are to telecommute. All of us are available telephonically, and whenever a need arises we are ready to meet up with people,” Stefanovich stated.