A court in Belarus has sentenced Nobel Peace Prize winner and civil rights activist Ales Byaljazki to ten years in prison. Byalyatski was found guilty of organized smuggling and financing public unrest, the state news agency Belta said on Friday. The prosecution had even called for twelve years in prison. In addition to the 60-year-old, three other Belarusian civil rights activists were sentenced to long prison terms, one of them in absentia.
Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner in the 2020 presidential elections. The election was not recognized internationally. Mass protests broke out in the country, which the authorities used violence to put down. The "Vyazna" center founded by Byaljazki in 1996 registered numerous cases of torture and other human rights violations by the police. It helped protesters find and pay lawyers.
As a result, "Vyazna" also came under the scrutiny of the authorities. In July 2021, the head of Byalyatsky and other employees of the Human Rights Center were arrested after house searches. Byalyatski was also unable to accept the Nobel Prize awarded to him in 2022. First, the doctor of literature was arrested for alleged tax evasion. The charges were later changed. Internationally Byalyatski is considered a political prisoner.