Artak Kirakosyan, secretary general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has sent an open letter of support to arrested human rights defender Ales Byalyatski.
In his letter, Mr. Kirakosyan says that was overwhelmed by the most conflicting emotions since he learned this summer about the disclosure by Lithuania and Poland of information about bank accounts connected with Mr. Byalyatski’s human rights activities and activities of the Vyasna rights group that he chairs.
"These were feelings of sorrow and grief that you might possibly find yourself in the very same prison whose monstrous detention conditions were the subject of testimony that you and I gathered during our recent trip to Minsk from social activists and opposition figures who had served time there," says Mr. Kirakosyan. "These were also wrenching feelings of injustice that a person who so faithfully and loyally loves his country, his people, and his culture could be betrayed by friends."
Mr. Kirakosyan says that he is admired by the Belarusian activist`s "uncompromising courage" and readiness to serve his country and "bear the brunt of the attack in order to draw attention to this paradoxically short-sighted and cruel regime that continues to hang on in the center of Europe with the connivance of democratic countries."
"Knowing the dangers, you returned to Minsk," the associate notes. "Naturally, we hoped that it would blow over, that the people who make decisions in today’s Belarus would have enough elementary sensibility not to take this step… But every dictator is convinced that he is the one who will escape the fate of Beria, Ceausescu, Pinochet, and Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, the Belarusian authorities are slipping and sliding down into this very same abyss before our eyes."
Mr. Kirakosyan expresses fear that the repressive apparatus in Belarus will not stop once it can "digest" Ales Byalyatski. "After it eliminates ‘open enemies,’ it will move on to hidden enemies," he says.
But he says that he counts on the Belarusians. "I hope that they will not be blinded by the fabrications the authorities have made up about the large amounts of money allegedly hidden away by human rights defenders," he says. "I hope that in spite of the calculations made by the rotten government, they will not judge you based on their own 'lower selves', which indeed frequently justify opportunism and indifference because everyone is the same and I am no worse. Regardless of whatever prison you find yourself in, they will remember you as the person we have long known you to be — courageous, selfless, a fighter who never thinks of himself, but always of others."
The 48-year-old Byalyatski, chairman of a human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring) and vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, was arrested in Minsk on August 4.