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Story of Ales Belyatski - Face of Protest #15

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Ales Belyatski is the chairman and founder of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and former Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights. Currently imprisoned for political reasons. He is recognized as a political prisoner.

In 1996, Ales Belyatski organized the human rights organization "Viasna-96" (now the Human Rights Center "Viasna"), which he has chaired to this day. He was the Head of the Working Group of the Assembly of Democratic NGOs of Belarus (2000−2004); deputy Chairman of the Public Association BNF "Adradzhenne"; Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) — (2007−2016); member of the Union of Belarusian Writers and the PEN Center. He is a member of the Coordination Council. For active public and human rights activities he has been prosecuted more than 20 times.

During his 25 years of activities, Ales Belyatski has received numerous prizes and awards: in 2006, the Swedish Per Unger Award, the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Prize, the Homo Nomipi Award; in 2011: the Diploma for Courage and Fight for Freedom, the Best Human Rights Defender of the Year Award, the Norwegian Writers Union Award for Freedom of Speech; in 2012: the U.S. Department of State Lech Walesa Prize, the Petri Kelly Prize in recognition of his work in defending human rights in Belarus; in 2013: the Vaclav Havel Prize from PACE; in 2019: the Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law; in 2020: the Sakharov Prize for a Decent Life (jointly with others). He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times. Ales is the author of several books.

On August 4, 2011, Ales was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention. His home and the office of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" were searched by order of the Department of Financial Investigations. The reason for Ales Belyatski’s detention was alleged tax evasion. November 23, 2011, Ales Belyatski’s sentence was pronounced in Minsk court, which was attended by heads of diplomatic missions from the United States, France, Hungary and Germany, as well as human rights activists from Belarus, Russia and France. The court found Belyatski guilty of tax evasion and sentenced him to 4.5 years' imprisonment in a reinforced regime security colony with confiscation of property. The sentence was condemned by the EU and the U.S., major international human rights organizations, as well as the leaders of the Belarusian opposition political parties. On June 21, 2014, Ales Belyatski was released from the penal colony in Bobruisk.

On 16 February 2021 the first wave of searches of "Viasna" human rights defenders took place after the 2020 presidential election. A criminal case under Article 342(2) of the Criminal Code — financing and material support of group actions which grossly violate public order — was initiated against the Human Rights Center "Viasna". According to the official comments of the Investigative Committee, "Viasna" allegedly provided funding and other material support to "illegal mass actions" that "grossly violate public order". Earlier, Viasna human rights activists and volunteers Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chepyuk, Leonid Sudalenko, and Tatsiana Lasitsa were arrested following similar charges. All of them are recognized as political prisoners.

On 14 July Ales Belyatski and ten more human rights defenders were detained as part of a criminal case. They are suspected of organizing and financing group actions that grossly violate public order, as well as tax evasion. Political prisoners of human rights activists Ales Belyatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich were not released after ten days of detention. This means that they were charged. Human rights defenders' attorneys are under non-disclosure signatures, so they can’t tell the circumstances of the case.

Representatives of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" made the following statement: "We express our strong protest against another wave of 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."