Ales Bialiatski, sentenced to 4.5 years

In November, 2011 Head of Viasna human rights center was sentenced to 4.5-year confinement in a medium security penal colony and confiscation of property for alleged large-scale tax evasion.

The fact of Ales Bialiatski’s holding of 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. Opening accounts in Belarus turned out to be impossible since the Belarusian authorities repeatedly denied an official registration to Viasna human rights center.

Bialiatski was also obligated to pay 721 million rubles of the compensation for financial damage allegedly caused on the state, and 36 million rubles of the court expenditures (appr. $ 90,000 in total). Due to donations the necessary amount of money was raised.

On January 18, 2012, Ales Bialiatski’s wife transferred the money (757,526,717 rubles) to the account of the Department of Justice of Minsk City Executive Committee for the Court of Pershamaiski District. But the Minsk City Court did not satisfy the cassation appeal against the verdict to Ales Bialiatski and left the sentence unreversed.

Ales Bialiatski was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize. The initiative of proposing his candidacy came into existence in October 2011. At that time, an informal committee for support of the Belarusian human rights defender was appointed and joined by: Lyudmila Alexeyeva from Russian Memorial organisation, president of Freedom House David Kramer and Danuta Przywara, president of Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. So far, parliaments of 20 countries, including Poland, as well as the Council of Europe, many international institutions and public persons have expressed their support for Bialiatski’s candidacy. Before his death on December 18, 2011, Vaclav Havel spoke of the need for support of Bialiatski detained by Belarusian authorities.

Ales Bialiatski was arrested on August 4, 2011 and sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a medium security penal colony. At the current moment he is kept in prison №8 in Zhodzina.

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