Petition demanding freedom for Byalyatski delivered to Presidential Administration
A petition demanding the release of Ales Byalyatski, chairperson of a human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring), and the other political prisoners was delivered to the Presidential Administration on August 3.
It will be one year on Saturday since Mr. Byalyatski was arrested.
The petition was signed by Aleh Hulak, chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee; Tatsyana Ravyaka, a member of Vyasna; Alyaksandr Milinkevich, chairperson of the Movement for Freedom; Andrey Bastunets, deputy chairperson of the Belarusian Association of Journalists; Syarhey Matskevich, chairperson of the Assembly of Non-governmental Organizations; Raisa Mikhaylowskaya, chairperson of the Human Rights Center; and some other people.
On Friday afternoon, they came to the Presidential Administration and handed the petition to officers at the reception room. Police guards watched but did not intervene.
"We view the conviction of the human rights defender as unlawful and connected with his human rights activities," the petition says. "The arrest of Ales was a result of a years-long deliberate policy of the Belarusian authorities against human rights and civil society organizations in the country."
The authorities deny state registration to civil society organizations, refuse to abolish the Criminal Code's article that penalizes acting on behalf of unregistered organizations, and ban any foreign financial assistance, the petition says.
The petitioners urge the government to stop its pressure on civil society activists and human rights defenders and bring Belarusian regulations into conformity with international human rights standards.
Mr. Byalyatski, currently 49, who is vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, was arrested in Minsk on August 4, 2011. On November 24, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on a charge of large-scale tax evasion. The charge stemmed from information about his bank accounts abroad, which was thoughtlessly provided by authorities in Lithuania and Poland under interstate legal assistance agreements. 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 subject to taxation.
Last week a group of Russian human rights defenders and opposition activists called for declaring August 4 to be International Day of Solidarity with Belarusian Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders.