Ales Bialiatski: Nobel Prize-winning activist stands trial in Belarus

Ales Bialiatski: Nobel Prize-winning activist stands trial in Belarus

The trial of Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski has begun in Belarus.

Mr Bialiatski, 60, was arrested during anti-government protests in 2021, and his supporters claim that Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime is attempting to silence him.

Nobel Prize-winning

He is accused of smuggling cash to fund opposition activity, according to the Viasna (Spring) Human Rights Centre, which Bialiatski founded.

He faces up to 12 years in prison.

He was arrested in 2021, following massive street protests over widely disputed elections that had kept Mr Lukashenko in power the previous year.

During the protests, which began in 2020, demonstrators were met with brutality by police, and critics of Mr Lukashenko were regularly arrested and jailed.

Mr Bialiatski, who was one of three winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, has been held without trial since his arrest.

He is now in court alongside two fellow campaigners, Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich.

Viasna tweeted photos on Thursday that appeared to show Mr Bialiatski in the courtroom.

The organisation said he and his fellow defendants faced between seven and 12 years in prison.

The head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said when awarding the 2022 prize that “government authorities have repeatedly sought to silence” Mr Bialiatski.

“Despite tremendous personal hardship, Mr Bialiatski has not yielded an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” she added at the time.

Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski and human rights groups win 2022 Nobel Prize
Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski and human rights groups win 2022 Nobel Prize

Shortly before his arrest in 2021, Mr Bialiatski wrote on his Facebook page that the Belarusian authorities “are acting as a regime of occupation”.

“Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across all of Belarus, and hundreds [of them are] detained,” he wrote.

Mr Bialiatski set up Viasna in 1996 in response to the brutal crackdown of street protests in that year by Mr Lukashenko, who has been president of Belarus since the office was established in 1994.

The organization provided assistance to imprisoned demonstrators and their families, as well as documentation of how the authorities tortured political prisoners.

He was sentenced to three years in prison in 2011 after being convicted of tax evasion, which he denied.

Mr. Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, rules Belarus with an iron fist and has been dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” in the past.

As part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he has allowed Mr. Putin to launch missile attacks from Belarus.

He also permitted Russia to send troops to Belarus and was sanctioned for his role in the invasion.