Prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, who was arrested on 4 August, has now been charged, and his detention order has been extended. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience.
Ales Bialiatski has been in pre-trial detention in the capital, Minsk, since 4 August. On 12 August, he was charged under Article 243.2 of the Belarusian Criminal Code ("concealment of income on a large scale") which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years with confiscation of property. On 15 August, his detention order was extended by two months.
The charges brought against Ales Bialiatski relate to the use of a personal bank account in Lithuania to support the human rights work of Human Rights Centre Viasna in Belarus, of which he is Chair. Several other prominent human rights activists and Human Rights Centre Viasna employees have also been interrogated in relation to the case. The information about the bank account is believed to have been given to the Belarusian authorities by the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice.
Amnesty International recognises the right of the Belarusian authorities to punish legitimate crimes, but the organization maintains that the charges against Ales Bialatski are politically motivated and intended to obstruct his legitimate work as a human rights defender. He is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Viasna was derecognized by the Belarusian authorities in 2003 and as such was barred from opening a bank account in its name in Belarus. Since derecognition, the Belarusian authorities have repeatedly rejected the organization’s applications for registration. In 2005 it became a criminal offence in Belarus to act in the name of an unregistered organization, punishable by six months to one year in prison.
Please write immediately in Belarusian, Russian or your own language:
Calling on the authorities to release Ales Bialiatski immediately and unconditionally;
Urging them to drop the charges against Ales Bialiatski
Urging them to stop the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, and reminding them that they have a responsibility to protect human rights defenders, as set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which recognises that human rights activity is necessary and legitimate.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 SEPTEMBER 2011 TO:
Alyaksandr Lukashenka ul. Karla Marxa 38 220016 Minsk, BELARUS Fax: +375 17 226 06 10 +375 17 222 38 72 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Salutation: Dear President
Grigory Vasilevich Internatsionalnaya str. 22 220050 Minsk BELARUS Fax: +375 17 226 42 52 Salutation: Dear General Prosecutor