TALLINN (AP) : A Belarusian court on Friday sentenced Ales Bialiatski, Belarus’ top human rights advocate and one of the winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, to 10 years in prison.
Bialiatski and three other top figures of the Viasna human rights center he founded were convicted of financing actions violating public order and smuggling, Viasna reported Friday.
Valiantsin Stefanovich was given a nine-year sentence; Uladzimir Labkovicz seven years; and Dzmitry Salauyou was sentenced to eight years in prison in absentia.
Bialiatski and two of his associates were arrested and jailed after massive protests over a 2020 election that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a new term in office. Salauyou managed to leave Belarus before he was arrested.
Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet country with an iron fist since 1994, unleashed a brutal crackdown on the protesters, the largest in the country’s history. More than 35,000 people have been arrested, and thousands have been beaten by police.
During the trial, which took place behind closed doors, the 60-year-old Bialiatski and his colleagues were held in a caged enclosure in the courtroom.
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya denounced the court verdict on Friday as “appalling.” “We must do everything to fight against this shameful injustice (and) free them,” Tsikhaouskaya wrote in a tweet.