Bialiatski, the main human rights defender in Belarus, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. We take a look at its history and trajectory.
Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Belarusian court on charges of financing protests and smuggling money into Belarus.
He denied the allegations, which he and other human rights activists called politically motivated.
But who is Bialiatski? Here’s what we know.
Bialiatski, 60, won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.
Fellow human rights activists portray him as a symbol of resistance to oppression in Belarus and worldwide.
Natalia Pinchuk, Bialiatski’s wife, accepted the award on behalf of her husband, saying on Dec. 10 that the mission to defend civil rights is “risky.”
“Ales is not the only one in prison; thousands of Belarusians, tens of thousands of oppressed, unjustly imprisoned for their civil actions and beliefs, are in prison, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee the country simply because they wanted to live in a democratic state,” Pinchuk said.
Bialiatski is the fourth person to win the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison.
Rights and pro-democracy activist
Bialiatski has led a pro-democracy movement in Belarus since the mid-1980s.
He began campaigning for Belarusian independence and democracy and organized anti-Soviet protests before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In 1996, he founded Belarus’ most prominent human rights organisation, Viasna, following controversial constitutional amendments by former president Alexander Lukashenko.
Through Viasna, which translates to “Spring,” Bialiatski provided financial and legal support to detained protesters and their families, while also documenting the authorities’ use of torture and abuse of political prisoners.
Belarus has denied the allegations.
Bialiatski was imprisoned from 2011 to 2014 on charges of tax evasion in financing Viasna, a charge he denied.
In 2020, as Belarus saw a new wave of mass demonstrations against Lukashenko’s latest election, Viasna closely monitored the number of people arrested in protests and during police raids across the country.
Bialiatsky was arrested again in 2021 on tax evasion charges, a move described by Lukashenko’s critics as a tactic to silence his work.
“Bialiatski became the symbol of the global struggle against tyranny and for the rights of ordinary people, of Belarusians,” said Franak Viacorka, a Belarusian opposition politician and senior adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian Democratic Movement , to Al Jazeera.
Bialiatski and two others went on trial in January on charges of “smuggling by an organized group” and “financing group actions that seriously violate public order”.
Amnesty International called it “a blatant act of injustice in which the state clearly seeks revenge for their activism”.
Born on September 25, 1962, Bialiatski graduated from Gomel State University in 1984 with a degree in Russian and Belarusian Philology.
After initially working as a teacher, he became a scholar of Belarusian literature and a museum director.