The trial of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Byalyatski for alleged tax evasion has begun in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus.
The indictment accuses Byalyatski and other employees of the "Vyazna" human rights center of having evaded the equivalent of almost 45,000 euros in taxes between 2013 and 2020, the Belarusian journalists' association BAJ, which is banned in Minsk, reported. The human rights activist faces up to twelve years in prison.
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 Byalyatsky in 1996 registered numerous cases of torture and other human rights violations by the police and helped demonstrators to find and pay lawyers.
As a result, "Vyazna" was also attacked by the authorities. After house searches, he was arrested as the head and other staff of the human rights center in July 2021. The 60-year-old was also unable to accept the Nobel Prize awarded to him in 2022. Byalyatski was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison in 2011 for similar allegations, but was released early in 2014. Internationally, the literary scholar is considered a political prisoner.