Human rights defender Ales Bialiatski released from prison! (upd)

Ales Bialiatski has phoned his wife Natallia Pinchuk and said he was freed. He is going to Minsk by train. Arrested in August, 2011, the political prisoner has spent more than a thousand days in jail.

The talk was very short, Natallia Pinchuk told Belsat TV. ‘It is hard to say whose telephone he was using, his was seized before. He told me: “Wait, I am arriving at [railway station] Institute of Culture at 15.00.” It still seems to be untrue; I won’t believe until I see him.’

(upd) The release came as a surprise to me, Ales Bialiatski told journalists. It was not until 9 am when the prison administration informed of the discharge. ‘I was released quickly, they drove me to the railway station by a medical car,’ the human rights defender said.

Dozens of people – his family, political prisoners’ relatives, friends, associates, civil activists, journalists – have welcomed Mr Bialiatski after he got out of the train in Minsk. Asked about a reason for his release the former political prisoner answered: ‘But for your help it would not have happened’. Mr Bialiatski expressed hope that ‘good news would come’ speaking about the prisoners of conscience who are still behind the bars.

{movie}Ales Bialiatski out of prison, people meeting him at the railway station in Minsk, video by RFE/RL|right|17092{/movie}

In November, 2011 Ales Bialiatski, Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a medium security penal colony 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.

During the meeting with President Aliaksandr Lukashenka on January 21, 2014 Ales Lipay, Director of news agency BelaPAN, said that indifferent members of the public had raised funds to compensate financial damage allegedly caused on the state by Ales Bialiatski. The money were transferred to the appropriate account long ago, he stressed.

In response, Mr Lukashenka delegated Aliaksandr Radzkou, the president’s deputy chief of staff, to check the information. ‘This is a compelling argument. Political issues and Bialiatski’s views are not the point. I swear I have never known him,’ he said and added that paying taxes is a bounden duty.

According to human rights centre Viasna (Spring), there are 7 political prisoners in Belarus. They include former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich, Eduard Lobau, Mikalay Dziadok, Ihar Alinevich, Vasil Parfiankou, Yauhen Vaskovich, and Artsiom Prakapenka.

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