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Belarus: Jailing of three human rights defenders is 'blatant retaliation' for their work

Three key figures from leading human rights group Viasna jailed for between seven and ten years

Sham case against the three involved fabricated changes of currency smuggling

‘These brave human rights defenders were never given the chance of a fair trial’ - Marie Struthers

Responding to the jailing in Belarus of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, founder and chair of the Viasna human rights centre, sentenced today along with two of his colleagues, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:

“This sham trial on politically-motivated charges is a blatant retaliation for Viasna’s human rights work.

“Their sentencing represents a further blow to the already severely repressed civil society and the concerning state of human rights in Belarus. It’s a vindictive act of injustice that requires the immediate attention of the international community.

“These brave human rights defenders were never given the chance of a fair trial. They were handcuffed when escorted in and held inside a cage throughout the trial. The judge conducted proceedings in Russian instead of Belarusian and they were given no time to familiarise themselves with the case materials, to say nothing of them being tried on fabricated charges.

We cannot let them suffer under the reprehensible political agenda of the Belarusian authorities. We demand their immediate and unconditional release.

Sentences of ten, nine and seven years

Earlier today, Viasna human rights centre and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski received a sentence of ten years in prison, while Valiantsin Stefanovich - Viasna’s deputy chair and vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights - was sentenced to nine years, and Viasna’s lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich was jailed for seven years.

Bialiatski, Stefanovich and Labkovich were falsely charged with “smuggling large sums of money and financing group activities that grossly violated public order”. They have all been held in custody since July 2021, while exiled co-defendant Dzmitry Salauyou was sentenced - in absentia - to eight years. The prosecution claimed that the three accused had smuggled at least 201,000 Euros and 54,000 US dollars across the border and used these funds to finance “unlawful” protest activities.

During and after mass and overwhelmingly peaceful protests against widely-alleged electoral fraud in Belarus in 2020, Viasna was instrumental in documenting and reporting widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and unfair trials.

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