The Public Association Belarusian Association of Journalists expresses its strong protest against the court decision and the sentence, returned to BAJ member and human rights defender Ales Bialiatski.On November 24, 2011 the court of Pershamayski City District in Minsk found Ales Bialiatski guilty of large-scale tax evasion under Art. 243 (2) of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to four and a half years of maximum security colony imprisonment with property confiscation. He will also have to pay 721 Br mln (around $80 thousand) and 36 Br mln of legal expenses ($4,5 thousand). The sentence hasn’t come into effect yet. We consider that the decision was a politically motivated conviction of the head of Viasna — one of the most influential human rights organizations, which had been closed down in 2003. We are sure that the money sent into the accounts was used to support repressed people in Belarus, and it cannot be considered Ales Bialiatski’s personal income.
The BAJ calls the Belarusian court to cancel the conviction. There is a chance to change the situation before the sentence comes into force. The BAJ demands immediate release for Ales Bialiatski and expresses solidarity with his family, his colleagues, and friends. We call other citizens of Belarus, foreign colleagues and partner organizations to support the protest.