Moscow, Mar 3 (EFE).- Belarus on Friday sentenced human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski to 10 years in prison on charges of smuggling money and funding activities that subverted public order.
Bialiatski is the founder of the Eastern European nation’s most prominent human rights group Viasna and was awarded the peace prize in 2022.
Also sat in the dock on Friday were Viasna deputy Valiantsin Stefanovic and lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich. They were handed 9 and 10 year sentences respectively while human rights activist Zmitser Salauyou was sentenced in absentia to 8 years in a penal colony.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and can appeal.
All aside from Salauyou have been in custody since 2021.
The activists described the charges as politically motivated.
Bialiatski, addressing the court last month, said: “The political underpinning of criminal proceedings against Viasna human rights defenders is also evidenced by the overall situation in the country, permeated with mass repression and total human rights violations during and after the election campaign in 2020.
“Instead of hearing the voice of the people, a violent reaction took place in Belarus,” he added.
On the eve of the sentencing, 21 international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Freedom House and Human Rights Watch called for the prisoners to be freed.
Bialiatski was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year alongside Russian human rights group Memorial and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties.EFE