Ales Bialiatski, one of the recepients of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize has been imprisoned in Belarus.
The human rights campaign has been sentenced to a decade in prison. It comes amid a crackdown on anti-government demonstrators from Alexander Lukashenko’s authotitarian regime.
Lukashenko’s 2020 election victory has been marred by allegations that vote rigging affected the results. As a result, demonstrations and protests broke out across Belarus.
Bialiatski’s conviction has been met with anger and solidarity by supporter. They alleged that Lukashenko is attempting to silence the Nobel Peace Prize winner through the prison sentence.
Why was Ales Bialiatski imprisoned in Belarus?
Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of smuggling money into the country and financing anti-government events. It comes amid a crack down from the government on opposition to the party.
Arrests have been made since protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the disputed results of the 2020 election. Bialiatski was one of those arrested.
Lukashenko, who is Belarus’ longest-running leader, claimed victory in the election but his win has been widely disputed. There were accusations of vote rigging, with anti-goverment protests breaking out shortly after.
The results have also been disputed abroad. The UK, the US and the European Union are among those to not recognise Lukashenko as the leader of Belarus.
Two other campaigners, Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich, also appeared in court alongside Bialiatski. Stefanovich was sentenced to nine years in prison, while Labkovich was sentenced to seven years.
Kostya Staradubets, a spokesperson for human rights organisation Viasna, told the BBC: “We knew that our three colleagues would get long prison terms but anyway it’s still a shock, it’s breaking our hearts, not only the [prison] terms are long but the conditions also very horrific.”
Additionally, the sentencing of Bialiatski, Stefanovich and Labkovich was comdenmed by Belarus’ opposition leader Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya. She tweeted: “I call on the international community to join the campaign of solidarity with human rights defender Ales Bialiatski — #freeales.
“Please support us by organizing events & making statements. The regime wants to silence Ales, so we have to make sure his name is heard even louder!”
Who is Ales Bialiatski?
Bialiatski, 60, has worked since the 1980s to promote democracy in Belarus.
Bialiatski was one of three winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the prestigious accolade for his work to promote democracy and human rights in Belarus, and also for the founding of the human rights organisation Viasna.
He founded the organisation after Lukashenko came to power in 1996. The origins of the group came from aiming to help political prisoners who had been arrested for protesting his 1996 election win, before expanding in the years following into a full human rights organisation.