Today Ales Bialiatski, head of the leading Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna, the most well-known human rights defender in Belarus and Vice- President of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was sentenced to four and a half years of imprisonment in a reinforced prison.
He was also sentenced to confiscation of property and a fine of about $ 83 000 for “concealment of profits on an especially large scale in pursuance of prior agreements” in accordance with the article 243, part 2, of the Criminal Code. The trial, that was held in The Pershamaiski District Court of the City of Minsk, was followed by delegations from international human rights defenders, oppositional politicians and a lot of foreign diplomats.
The 49-year-old human rights defender was detained on August 4 when the Belarusian tax authorities learnt about accounts opened by Ales Bialiatski in foreign banks to operate Belarus’ main human rights centre “Viasna”. The information was sent by the the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice and Attorney General of Poland.
The authorities considered the money on the account of Ales Bialiatski’s as his personal income and accused him of concealing it. This money, which was transferred by organisations for the purpose of funding ordinary human rights activities, was by no means used as personal funds but to finance legitimate activities of the human rights centre, such as election monitoring and assistance provided to victims of political repressions.
In the final address to the court on November 23, Ales Bialiatski compared Belarusian KGB methods with those of the Soviet-era KGB. He again pleaded not guilty and said that the case has been politically motivated from the very beginning.