2022 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Sentenced To 10 Years In Jail; What’s His ‘Crime’?

New Delhi: Ales Bialiatski, one of the Nobel Peace Prize winners of last year, and three other top figures of Belarus’ Viasna Human Rights Centre, were on Friday sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A Belarusian court found the country’s top human rights advocate and the three others guilty of financing actions violating public order and smuggling, and convicted them, according to Viasna, which was founded by Bialiatski.

Bialiatski apart, Valiantsin Stefanovich was given a 9-year sentence, Uladzimir Labkovicz 7 years and Dzmitry Salauyou 8 years (in absentia), AP reported.

Leading human rights advocate Bialiatski, Russian human rights organisation Memorial and Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2022.

After general election in 2020 gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a fresh term in office, Bialiatski and two of his associates were arrested and jailed for massive protests. Salauyou managed to leave Belarus.

Over 35,000 people were arrested and thousands beaten by police as Lukashenko — who has ruled the ex-Soviet country since 1994 — unleashed a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters 3 years ago.

Bialiatski, 60, and his colleagues spent 21 months behind bars. They were put up in a caged enclosure in the courtroom during the trial, which was held behind closed doors.

Biliatski urged the authorities to stop the “civil war in Belarus” in his final address to the court.

He said it was obvious from the case files that “the investigators were fulfilling the task they were given: to deprive Viasna human rights advocates of freedom at any cost, destroy Viasna and stop our work.”

There was widespread condemnation of the court verdict.

Terming it as ‘appalling’, exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted: “We must do everything to fight against this shameful injustice and free them.”

Norwegian Helsinki Committee, a non-governmental organisation working to ensure human rights are respected in practice, said it was “shocked by the cynicism behind the sentences that were just issued to our Belarusian friends in Minsk.”

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