Belarus court sentences Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bialiatski to 10 years prison

A Belarusian court Friday sentenced Ales Bialiatski, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient, to ten years in prison for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government through financing anti-government demonstrations in the region. The verdict received international condemnation, including from the US, the European Union and the United Nations.

Judge Marina Zapasnik announced the verdict and sentencing in a court in the Leninsky district of Minsk, Belarus. The court found Bialiatski guilty of financing the 2020 protests and smuggling cash by an organized group, which are respectively located under Part 2 of Article 342 and Part 4 of Article 228 of Belarus’s criminal code. As a result, Bialiatski was sentenced to ten years in prison.

In a statement, Bialiatski’s human rights organization Viasna criticized the court and its proceedings, demanding Bialiatski’s immediate release. They also said, “We, the members of Viasna, strongly protest the continuing repression against members of the organization and against civil society in Belarus as a whole and declare that we will not stop our human rights activities.”

The sentencing drew immediate criticism. Both the US and EU condemned the judicial proceedings and called for the immediate and unconditional release of Bialiatski, along with the more than 1,400 political prisoners in Belarusian jails. A spokesperson for the UN described the sentencing as “deeply troubling and indicative of the ongoing repression in the country.”

Speaking on the sentence, Belarusian opposition activist Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted:

During the 2020 national elections, Tsikhanouskaya served as the primary candidate against current President Alexander Lukashenko after Belarusian authorities arrested her husband, who had served as the candidate before her. Following the elections, Tsikhanouskaya fled Belarus and remains in exile.

Tsikhanouskaya is not alone as Lukashenko’s government continues to crackdown on opposition voices. In a January dispatch, one of JURIST’s Belarusian correspondents claimed that there were “more than 1,440 political prisoners in Belarusian prisons.” Bialiatski was among thousands of Belarusians detained during the anti-Lukashenko protests, which erupted following the 2020 national elections.