Freed HR defender Ales Bialiatski: ‘I am not going to leave Belarus or become President’

Today the former political prisoner, Vice-President of FIDH, who was unexpectedly amnestied on Saturday has given a press conference in Minsk. ‘Being behind bars for a democratic, independent Belarus is normal,’ he said opening the event.

Political prisoners

‘We shouldn’t be afraid of pressure and repressions. I knew what I was serving [the term] for, and that’s why I was taking it in my stride. I am grateful to ten thousand people who supported me. I am grateful to Belarusian and international human rights organisations.’

‘I hope my release is just a beginning. I am asking the Belarusian authorities to go the extra mile. Belarus should be a country without political prisoners. We are very close to it, seven political prisoners should be released and a moratorium on arrests should be declared.’

‘All the negotiations on improving relations with the West should be launched only after all the political prisoners are freed. Azerbaijan’s scenario is unacceptable.’


‘Before the arrest it was clear that the KGB was following HR centre Viasna’s activity very carefully. I was thrown into a dilemma: to leave the country or to stay here and prove my innocence.’

‘I am not going to leave [Belarus], I feel comfortable being here. When one goes to the West one is out of their element there. Maybe it does make sense to study there […] but one should live in his native country.’

‘I can’t say I am very satisfied with my release because nothing has changed in the country for this three years.’

‘Our future is in our hands. All the talks about the EU’s hands or U.S. involvement are nonsense. It is the Belarusians who should alter the situation. At the best case, they may show their sympathy, but no one will bring democracy to us.’

Years in penal colony

‘Before I was taken to the penal colony they had moved all the people who were taking out a subscription for the [independent newspaper] Narodnaya Volya’ from a detachment.’

‘If anyone happened to have a word with me they moved him to another detachment.’

‘They moved dozens of people to other detachments and used different kinds of punishment. And other convicts began to avoid communicationg with me.’

‘For these years I have become a qualified packer’

‘I never had a thought [of asking for pardon]. They offered me to file a petition for pardon to Lukashenka twice – in September, 2011 and in January, 2014, after Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s press conference. But there is a lot of things which are not talked about in penal colonies; they just push you [for the decision] with the help of actions, provocations, restrictions.’

‘In the penal colony we had an opportunity to watch Belarusian and Russian TV channels. Russian ones are more popular. Russia’s vicious military propaganda affects prisoners in particular and our country’s citizens as a whole. It’s very easy to make heads spin in small towns’

No presidential ambitions

‘I don’t want to become President. I was born in Russia, and according to our Constitution, [a candidate] is to have been born in Belarus. Now civil activity is more needed than political campaigns and structures that we have [in Belarus]. We should develop a broader social movement.’

See also