Since 1996, Viasna has provided legal assistance to thousands of Belarusians who were fined, arrested or imprisoned for criticising Alyakdsandr Lukashenka’s authoritarian policies. Viasna has also been active in reporting on the police crackdown on a recent series of peaceful rallies following the presidential elections. Since April 2011, Mr Bialiatski has been the subject of a smear campaign, in which he is presented as public enemy number one in Belarus.
Mr Bialiatski’s arrest is yet another instance in a pattern of harassment and intimidation towards civil society. It is high time political abuse of the criminal law in Belarus comes to an end.