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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

This year‘s Nobel Peace Prize winner faces 12 years in prison

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This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bilyatsky, a long-time defender of human rights in Belarus, is threatened with a sentence of up to 12 years in prison in a case of currency smuggling, his non-governmental organization “Vyasna” reported today, as quoted by France Press.

Bilyatsky, who has been in pre-trial detention in Belarus since July 2021, is a defendant in this case along with two other arrested associates of his and a third who is in exile abroad, “Vyasna” reported.

“They are threatened with sentences between 7 and 12 years in prison,” the organization said in a statement.

Bilyatsky and his associates are accused of transporting “a large amount of cash, acting as an organized group” across the Belarusian border, and of “financing collective actions seriously undermining public order.”

According to “Vyasna”, the date for the start of the process has not yet been determined.

The trial is seen by many as revenge against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Moscow who has been in power since 1994 and has stifled all forms of criticism, especially since the mass protest movement following elections in the summer of 2020.

Ales Bilyatsky won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, thanks to his fight for human rights, together with the Russian Memorial Center and the NGO Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties.

Belarus condemned the award as a “politicized decision”.

Founded in 1996 during the mass pro-democracy protests in Belarus, Vyasna began its work by initially providing assistance to imprisoned people and their relatives. After that, its activity expanded to the protection of human rights in the country as a whole, where their violations are widespread.

Photo by Mathias Reding:

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