Today, on November 24, 2011, Judge Siarhei Bandarenka of Pershamaiski District Court in Minsk sentenced our colleague – chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", vice-president of FIDH Ales Bialiatski to 4.5 years of imprisonment. The human rights activist was convicted of allegedly committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 243 of the Criminal Code – "tax evasion on a large scale".
We, the members of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", consider the sentence as a reprisal against our colleague, a revenge for his many years of human rights activities, as well as a desire to destroy our organization and to intimidate the entire human rights movement in Belarus.
From the outset of Ales Bialiatski’s detention on August 4, the investigators were engaged in gross violations of the Belarusian law. In particular, Ales Bialiatski was illegally subjected to personal restraint. Having refused to address the foundations that transferred money to Ales Bialiatski to inquire on its intended purpose, the investigation ignored the corresponding instructions from the Prosecutor's Office, rather than attempting to establish the truth of the case.
During the trial it became apparent that the prosecutor did not even possess circumstantial evidence of Ales Bialiatski’s guilt of committing the crime for which he was convicted. The court did not find any proofs of the fact of receiving the resources; inadmissible were the evidence of the materials by the authorities of Lithuania and Poland, as they were not properly arranged.
The materials that were presented in court indicated that starting from October 2010 Ales Bialiatski and other members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” were subjected to illegal searches and other investigative actions initiated by the Belarusian KGB.
The facts that became known during the trial, testified that the true motive of conviction of Ales Bialiatski was sanctioning his persistent and principled human rights activities. Today's sentence to our colleague is the result of many years of repressive policy by the Belarusian authorities against human rights organizations: squeezing them out of the legal field through denial of official status, refusal of registration to new associations on trivial grounds, criminalization of the activities of unregistered organizations, creating obstacles and pressures from the KGB and other secret police agencies. Ales Bialiatski’s punishment is the authorities’ reaction to the firm and consistent stand of all human rights defenders in Belarus in their assessing the human rights situation in the country.
We are convinced that the verdict to Ales Bialiatski is illegal and therefore subject to an unconditional reversal.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" is grateful to all people, human rights activists, politicians, foreign governments and parliaments who have expressed their strong protest at the unlawful harassment of Ales Bialiatski and Belarusian human rights activists, in general.
On our part, we declare that the Human Rights Center "Viasna" will continue its human rights activities, as it is our duty for the sake of the entire society in Belarus, which is suffering from massive violations of human rights.