Reacting to the beginning of a court hearing in the politically motivated case against Ales Bialiatski, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and chair of the Viasna human rights group, and his colleagues Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich and Dzmitry Salauyou, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“The trial against Ales Bialiatski and his fellow human rights defenders is a blatant act of injustice wherein the state is clearly seeking to enact revenge for their activism. In this shameful pretence of a trial, the defendants cannot even hope for a semblance of justice. The judge has not only refused to conduct the trial in Belarusian instead of Russian, but also to remove their handcuffs or adjourn the hearing so the defendants can familiarize themselves with the case materials.
In this shameful pretence of a trial, the defendants cannot even hope for a semblance of justice.Marie Struthers, Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Amnesty International
“In a country where politically motivated prosecutions and mass imprisonment of people for criticizing the government are routine, human rights work is as indispensable as it is dangerous. Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s administration is particularly vengeful against human rights activists, and the outcome of this ‘trial’ seems destined to be cruel.
“All charges against Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich should be urgently dropped, and they should all be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Ales Bialiatski, founder and chair of Viasna human rights centre, Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chair of Viasna and vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights, and Uladzimir Labkovich, Viasna’s lawyer, have been falsely charged with “smuggling large sums of money and financing group activities that grossly violated public order”. They have all been held in custody since July 2021, while exiled co-defendant Dzmitry Salauyou is being tried in absentia. They face up to 12 years behind bars.
The prosecution claims that they smuggled at least 201,000 euros and 54,000 USD across the border and used these funds to finance unlawful protest activities.
During mass peaceful protests against widely alleged electoral fraud in 2020 and in their aftermath, Viasna was instrumental in documenting and reporting mass human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and unfair trials.