The Norwegian Writers’ Union has awarded its 2012 Freedom of Expression Prize to imprisoned human rights defender Ales Byalyatski.
The awards ceremony was held in Oslo on March 25 on the sidelines of the Union`s convention, Mr. Byalyatski’s wife, Natallya Pinchuk, told BelaPAN. "I collected the prize for Ales", she said. "The award was a bit surprising. I did not expect it. I think that Ales will also be pleasantly surprised".
The award honors human rights defenders, journalists and writers who fight for freedom of expression and tolerance. Among its past winners were Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Israeli writer and journalist Amos Oz and Eritrean writer and journalist Dawit Isaak.
On November 24, 2011, a judge of the Pershamayski District Court in Minsk sentenced Mr. Byalyatski, the 49-year-old leader of a human rights group called Vyasna (Spring) and vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, to four and a half years in prison on a charge of large-scale tax evasion.
The charge stemmed from information about Mr. Byalyatski`s bank accounts abroad, which was provided by authorities in Lithuania and Poland. During his trial, Mr. Byalyatski insisted that the money transferred by various foundations to his bank accounts abroad had been intended to finance Vyasna`s activities and therefore could not be viewed as his income.
Mr. Byalyatski`s appeal was rejected by the Minsk City Court on January 24.