Ales Bialiatski, the leading human rights defender in Belarus and one of the recipients of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, has been given a 10-year prison term by a Belarusian court.
On Friday, Bialiatski and three other key members of the Viasna Human Rights Center he created were accused of funding demonstrations and smuggling cash.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the fugitive leader of the Belarusian opposition, claimed that the conviction was “appalling” and that Bialiatski and other activists condemned in the same trial had been wrongly accused.
She tweeted that “We must do everything to fight against this shameful injustice & free them.”
“He has been harassed, he has been arrested and jailed, and he has been deprived of employment,” she added.
He was detained in 2021 after protracted public demonstrations over hotly contested elections the year before and charged with smuggling money into Belarus to finance opposition activities.
The rallies, which began in 2020, were greeted with police brutality, and opponents of Lukashenko were frequently detained and imprisoned.
The accusations against Bialiatski and his associates, who were detained in 2021, also had to do with Viasna’s payment of legal bills and financial assistance to political prisoners.
According to Viasna, the organization Mr Bialiatski created in 1996, “The allegations against our colleagues are linked to their human rights activists, the Viasna human rights centre’s provision of help to the victims of politically motivated persecution.”
The ruthless suppression of street rallies by Mr Lukashenko, who has been president of Belarus since the office’s establishment in 1994, prompted Mr Bialiatski, a longtime activist for human rights in Belarus, to start Viasna in 1996.
He was found guilty of tax evasion in 2011 and sentenced to three years in prison.
It has been said that Mr Lukashenko, a close supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is Europe’s last despot.