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Belarusian Nobel laureate jailed for 10 years

MOSCOW – Belarus on Friday sentenced veteran activist Ales Bialiatski, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the authoritarian country’s most prominent rights group, to 10 years in prison.

Bialiatski was in the dock with two allies after they were jailed following historic demonstrations against the controversial 2020 re-election of Belarusian strong President Alexander Lukashenko.

They have been accused of smuggling cash into Belarus to allegedly fund opposition activities, according to rights group Viasna, which means “spring” in Belarusian, founded by Bialiatski in 1996.

Viasna said he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while co-defendants Valentin Stefanovich were sentenced to nine years in prison and Vladimir Labkovich to seven years in prison.

At a hearing in January last year, all three pleaded not guilty.

Amnesty International has called the trial a “blatant act of injustice” and “revenge for her activism”.

Bialiatski was among the three co-recipients of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, along with a Russian and a Ukrainian human rights group.

Bialiatski, 60, founded Viasna shortly after Lukashenko became independent Belarus’ first president in 1994.

In 2011, Bialiatski was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, a move widely believed to be politically motivated after Lukashenko claimed a previous presidential election.

“Brave” right-backs

Dubbed “Europe’s last dictator,” Lukashenko has ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly three decades.

He is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and last February allowed Moscow to send troops from Belarus to Ukraine.

Lukashenko has cracked down on the opposition movement, jailing his critics or driving them into exile.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya on Friday criticized the court’s decision in what she called a “sham trial”.

“We must do everything we can to fight against and liberate this shameful injustice,” she said on social media.

Prosecutors in Belarus are asking for a 19-year prison sentence for Tikhanovskaya, who now resides in EU member Lithuania.

Tikhanovskaya – who claimed victory in the 2020 presidential election – faces a range of charges including treason, “conspiracy to seize power” and founding and leading an extremist organization.

Tikhanovskaya and her allies led rallies against Lukashenko’s claim to a sixth term in elections denounced as fraudulent by the international community.

She ran in place of her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, a charismatic YouTube blogger who stirred up the opposition and coined a new insult to Lukashenko when he called him a “cockroach”.

The authorities ended his campaign by arresting him for an offense against public order.

In 2021, he was found guilty of organizing riots, inciting social hatred and other charges and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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