November 24, 2011 -The Belarusian civil society received a severe blow today. Ales Bialiatski, Chariman of the human rights organisation Viasna, was sentenced for tax evasion to four and a half years in prison and confiscation of property.
“The verdict is completely unacceptable. With today’s ruling, the regime has lowered the respect for human rights in the country even further. This is a clear warning to the entire civil society, in which Ales Bialiatski is a central figure. The verdict is directly related to Ales Bialiatski’s and Viasna’s work for human rights in Belarus”, said Marie Månson, Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
The trial of Ales Bialiatski began on November 2, despite international protests and demands for his release. Bialiatski was arrested after Lithuania and Poland had disclosed information on his bank accounts on the Belarusian authorities’ request. The indictment was based on this information. Since Viasna has been denied to register and operate legally in Belarus, the organisation was forced to open private bank accounts abroad.