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Beginning of the trial of Belarusian Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski



(Moscow) The trial of jailed Belarusian democracy activist Ales Bialiatski, co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, began in Minsk on Thursday, the Viasna Center he founded, the main rights advocacy group, announced. human rights in his country.

Mr. Bialiatski as well as his collaborators tried with him Valentin Stefanovitch and Vladimir Labkovitch (BIEN Stefanovitch and Labkovitch), appeared in the cage reserved for the defendants, according to images from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. The three men have been detained since July 2021.

Ales Bialiatski, 60, with white hair and wearing a black sweatshirt, sat in the front row, his two companions standing behind him, looking dejected or drowsy in the cage surrounded by four armed police.

Initially charged with tax evasion, they are now accused of bringing large amounts of cash into Belarus and of having “financed collective actions seriously undermining public order”, Viasna explained in November, adding that they risked seven to 12 years in prison.

They pleaded not guilty on Friday.

Mr. Bialiatski, who created Viasna (“Spring”) in 1996, received the Nobel Peace Prize alongside two other human rights organizations, Memorial (Russia) and the Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine).

He and his two aides were imprisoned after the 2020 massive protests against the regime following the unilaterally proclaimed victory in the presidential election of Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994.

“Theatrical” Justice

A fourth defendant, Dmitri Solovyov, is tried in absentia after fleeing to Poland. “It’s a bogus trial,” he told AFP, “I don’t trust this trial and what will happen there.”

He called the charges “absurd” and the legal process “theatre”, adding: “The law does not exist in Belarus. The process is completely controlled by a government of gangsters”.

The 2020 movement had gathered tens of thousands of people on the streets of Minsk and other cities for weeks before being gradually crushed with mass arrests, forced exiles and imprisonment of opponents, media and NGO leaders.


Ales Bialiatski, Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich

The West has adopted several sets of sanctions against Belarus, which, on the other hand, enjoys the unwavering support of Moscow.

This country has agreed in return to serve as a rear base for Russian troops for their offensive against Ukraine launched on February 24, 2022. But the Belarusian army has not taken part in the fighting on Ukrainian territory so far.

Serial trial

Viasna’s trial will be followed by those of independent journalists and that of Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, the figure of the Belarusian opposition, who lives in exile.

Next Monday is due to start the trial of several journalists from the website, Belarus’ main independent media, including editor-in-chief Marina Zolotova. They face a series of charges including tax evasion and incitement to hatred. This media had been described as “extremist” in 2021.

The same day will be presented in court in Grodno (west) the Belarusian-Polish journalist and activist Andrzej Poczobut, 49, correspondent in Minsk for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, arrested in March 2021. He is accused according to Viasna of incitement to hatred and for calling for “actions aimed at undermining the national security of Belarus”. He faces a sentence of twelve years in prison.

On January 17, the trial in absentia of Tikhanovskaya, 40, who faces a host of charges including high treason, conspiring to seize power unconstitutionally and creating and leading an extremist organization.

Presidential candidate in place of her imprisoned husband – Sergei Tikhanovski, a video blogger who had galvanized the opposition – she had claimed victory in the 2020 presidential election and now lives in exile in Lithuania.

Sergei Tikhanovski was sentenced in December 2021 to 18 years in prison for “organizing massive unrest”, “inciting hatred in society”, “disturbing public order” and “obstructing the Electoral Commission”.

Belarus had 1,448 political prisoners as of December 31, according to Viasna.

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