Valentsin Stefanovich: Authorities had planned to crack down on opposition finances for a long time

“The authorities had know how human rights defenders spent money from their foreign accounts for a long time now. It was cynical of the government to use it against activists” – Valentsin Stefanovich, a deputy director of Viasna human rights center told Belsat. – From the legal standpoint, Ales Bialacki has not committed the crime that he is being accused of. He has not avoided paying taxes, because in Belarus only profits are taxed. – he added.

Human rights defenders are concerned that court case against Bialacki will be held behind the closed doors. “Investigating officers have a difficult task ahead of them. They have to prove that the money [from foreign bank accounts] constitute a profit for Bialatski – only than we can talk about committing a crime. We have to monitor the situation and hope that the trial won’t be held behind the closed doors. – said Stefanovich.

Ales Bialatski was arrested based on information about his foreign bank accounts, handed over by the Polish Prosecutor General office and Lithuanian Ministry of Justice to regime in Minsk. He is accused of tax evasion. But Bialatski’s co-workers claim that money were only used for material support for the repressed dissidents, political prisoners, and paying fines to which protest participants were sentenced.

“You are running a smear campaign against Bialatski, you are accusing him in TV of ruling half of the country, owning some legendary houses and cars. Let’s have than an open for public trial, so everything is clear.” – Stefanovich appealed to Belarusian authorities.

Stefanovich stressed that human rights groups cannot operate in Belarus in an official way. “The authorities forced human rights organizations into underground. Majority of them had their registration revoked, and those which still operate officially – cannot receive any support from foreign groups. It’s obvious that I won’t go to the department of humanitarian aid, which is part of the presidential administration, and talk about creating a special financial fund to support political prisoners. It would have been ridiculous. – said Stefanovich.


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