Prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyatski faces charge of tax evasion

Ales Byalyatski. Photo: viasna96 / Telegram

Earlier, it was reported that the chairman of human rights centre Viasna was also accused of ‘organising actions that grossly violate public order’ (Article 342 of the Criminal Code).

On October 6, Minsk City Court considered a complaint against the extending the detention term of prominent human rights activist political prisoner Ales Byalyatski. Judge Yauhen Khatkevich dismissed the complaint, but, according to Viasna, at least it has become known what Byalyatski is charged with. Notably, the human rights activist’s defence lawyer had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and his letters are being censored.

As it appeared from the court schedule, Byalyatski is accused only of tax evasion (Art. 243-2 of the Criminal Code), the above mentioned Art. 342 was not included in the information piece. But still, if found guilty of tax evasion, he may be sentenced to up to 7 years of imprisonment.

Ales Byalyatski was detained in mid July as part of a large-scale attack by the secret services on the human rights community in Belarus. He is now kept in detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk. Ales Byalyatski has been recognized as a political prisoner.

In late September, Byalyatski celebrated his birthday behind bars. He turned 59 years old.

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Ales Byalyatski was the founder and head of HRC Viasna and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (from 2007 to 2016).

During his 25 years of activity, Ales Byalyatski has received numerous prizes and awards: the Swedish Per Unger Award in 2006, the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Prize, the Homo Nomipi Award presented by Vaclav Havel, the 2011 Diploma for Courage and Fight for Freedom, the Best Human Rights Defender of the Year Award, the Norwegian Writers Union Award “For Freedom of Speech”, the 2012 US Department of State Award Lech Walesa Award, the Petrie Kelly Award in recognition of his work in defending human rights in Belarus, in 2013 the Vaclav Havel Award from PACE, in 2019 the Award for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, and in 2020 the Sakharov Prize for a Decent Life and the Sakharov Prize together with others. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times. Ales is the author of several books.

It is not the first time that Ales has been listed as a political prisoner. He was arrested in August 2011 and sentenced to 4.5 years in a strict regime colony with confiscation of property. He served his sentence in the Zhodzina prison and in the Babruysk colony. He was released in June 2014 on amnesty.

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