The human rights activist Ales Belyatski was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment in Minsk today. Belyatski was arrested and charged with tax evasion on 4 August.
Markus Löning, the Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner, issued the following statement today (24 November):
“I condemn the guilty verdict against Ales Belyatski in the strongest possible terms and call for his immediate release.
It is easy to see that the Belarusian authorities are trying here to silence a committed human rights activist by trying him on trumped-up charges. There can be no justification for this cowardly move.
I call for the release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners in Belarus and an end to the repression against opposition NGOs and their activists.”
Ales Belyatski heads the human rights organization Vyasna and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
Vyasna is one of the most important human rights organizations in Belarus. Since the beginning of the recent wave of repression, the centre has made a name for itself by supporting political prisoners and their families. Vyasna was established in 1996 and officially registered in 1999. Its registration was subsequently revoked in 2003. Since then, all the organization’s efforts to reregister have failed.