Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday by a court in his native Belarus which found him guilty of financing protests in a trial con-demned by the United States and the European Union as a “sham”.
Bialiatski, 60, was awarded the Nobel prize in October for his work promoting human rights and democracy in a country which President Alexander Lukashenko, a staunch ally of Russia, has ruled with an iron hand for nearly 30 years, violently locking up his opponents or forcing them to flee.
Footage from the cramped Minsk court showed Bialiatski, who co-founded the Viasna (Spring) human rights group, looking sombre, his hands cuffed behind his back, as he and his co-defendants watched proceedings from a courtroom cage.
Bialiatski, who was arrested in 2021, and three co-defendants were charged with financing protests and smuggling money. Belarusian state news agency Belta confirmed the court had handed down long jail sentences to all the men, including a decade in prison for Bialiatski. He denied the charges against him, saying they were politically motivated.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said Bialiatski and the three other activists had been unfairly convicted, describing the court verdict as “appalling”.
“We must do everything to fight against this shameful injustice and free them,” she said on Twit-ter.
The other three men convicted were Valentin Stefanovich, sentenced to nine years, Vladimir Labkovich to seven years, and Dmitry Solovyov, who received eight years but was not present in court.—APP