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Case History: Ales Bialiatski

状况: 
Threatened
About the situation

After 1,052 days in prison, Ales Bialiatski was granted an amnesty on 21 June 2014. he resumed his work as a human rights defender and President of Viasna, but remains under risk of harassment and reprisal in Belarus.

About Ales Bialiatski

ales_bialiatskiOn 24 November 2011, Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to four and a half years strict regime detention and confiscation of his properties, charged with tax evasion. On 21 June 2014, Ales has been released on amnesty after having spent almost 3 years in prison. He had been detained on 4 August 2011, following a targeted campaign because of his human rights work. Ales is President of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and FIDH Vice President.

23 6 2014
Ales Bialiatski released on amnesty on 21 June 2014

Ales Bialiatski, chairman of Belarusian Human Rights Center, 'Viasna' (Spring), has been released on amnesty on 21 June 2014, after having spent almost 3 years in prison. The day of his release, in telephone conversation with Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator, Ales said that he did not expect his release, because the prison authorities had orchestrated numerous violations of prison rules which would normally have excluded him from such an amnesty.

Ales Bialiatski was arrested on 4 August 2011. On 24 November 2011, he was found guilty of tax evasion on a large scale by the Pervomayski District Court of Minsk following an unfair trial, and was condemned to four and a half years imprisonment. A broad range of civil society organisations, public figures and Governments have campaigned for his unconditional release. Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, said “The release of Ales Bialiatski is very positive news but Ales' organisation continue to operate without registration under the risk of criminal persecution and the Belarus authorities must ensure that human rights defenders are able to undertake their peaceful and legitimate activities free of repression.”

On 23 June 2014, Ales gave his first press conference in a office of 'Viasna'. He said that his release should not be taken as a sign of 'liberalisation' of the Belarusian regime and stressed that any negotiations between the European Union and Belarus should take place only after the unconditional release of all political prisoners. Answering questions about the conditions of detention, Ales confirmed that he had been completely isolated from other prisoners and anyone who dared to speak a word to him was sanctioned.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton welcomed the release of Ales Bialiatski and stated: “This is an important step by the Belarusian authorities and should be followed without delay by the release of all the remaining political prisoners and the reinstatement of their full civil and political rights. This could contribute to improving relations between the European Union and Belarus."

20 5 2013
Abuse of prison regulations against imprisoned human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski

On 16 May 2013, the wife of human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski went to the Bobruysk colony No.2, where her husband has been held since February 2012, in order to bring him a food parcel. However, the food parcel was refused by prison officials, who informed her that in March 2013 Ales Bialiatski's right to receive food from visitors had been suspended for six months.

Ales Bialiatski is the Chairman of Human Rights Centre Viasna. On 24 November 2011, he was found guilty of tax evasion on a large scale by the Pervomayski District Court of Minsk following an unfair trial, and was condemned to four and a half years imprisonment as well as the confiscation of all property including belongings registered in the name of other persons. The court also fined the human rights defender 721 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 82,700 USD) for alleged unpaid taxes and 36 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 4,100 USD) for state costs.

This incident is not the fist time that disciplinary measures have been used against Ales Bialiatski. Between March and June 2012, he received three reprimands, one of which resulted in the loss of visitation rights. Following the three reprimands, in June 2012 the human rights defender was named a 'malicious disturber', which resulted in his exclusion from the 2012 amnesty for economic crimes.

Moreover, the amount of personal funds that he could use to purchase food and other basic items was decreased five-fold by the colony administration. In August 2012, two more reprimands were brought against him; one because he brought a piece of bread to his cell after dinner, the other because he put a curtain around his bed for privacy. As a result of these reprimands he was not allowed to received food parcels and was denied visitation rights.

On 19 October 2012, the weight of parcels the human rights defender was allowed to receive was reduced from 2kg to 1kg, a measure which does not apply to any other prisoner. A parcel that his wife sent to him was later returned due to alleged violations of the terms of delivery.

Front Line Defenders has published appeals and updates on this case, most recently on 26 November 2012. Front Line Defenders believes that continuous reprimanding of Ales Bialiatski is an abuse of prison regulations and is being used as a tool to worsen the conditions of his detention and prevent his early release.

26 11 2012
Confiscation of the office of Human Rights Centre "Viasna"

On 26 November 2012, the office premises of Human Rights Centre Viasna were confiscated. This appropriation is the latest in a series of moves against the group by the authorities since the jailing of their chairman Ales Bialiatski

The impending date of seizure on November 17 of Viasna’s offices was announced just a few days before by bailiff Radzevich of Minsk Pershamaiski District Court in a written notification to Ms Natallia Pinchuk.

Natallia is the wife of Mr Ales Bialiatski, the chairman of Viasna, who is currently serving a prison sentence. The human rights centre's website describes this latest action against the group as "the authorities’ way of marking the one-year anniversary of Ales being sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment on November 24, 2011".

Viasna strive towards the defence, protection and promotion of political and social rights. Together with the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Viasna led the campaign 'Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections'. This campaign was launched to observe the presidential elections of 19 December 2010, in order to assess their conformity with Belarusian electoral legislation and international standards for free and democratic elections, and to keep the Belarusian public and the international community duly informed about its conclusions.

On 24 November 2011, Ales Bialiatski was found guilty of 'tax evasion on a large scale' by the Pervomayski District Court of Minsk and condemned to 4.5 years' imprisonment under a strict regime, and the confiscation of all property "including belongings registered in the name of other persons”. The court also fined the human rights defender 721 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 63,800 EUR) for alleged unpaid taxes and 36 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 3,200 EUR) for costs incurred by the state.

Front Line Defenders believes that Ales Bialiatski's sentence and the resulting sanctions such as the confiscation of HRC Viasna's offices are solely motivated by the organisation's legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights in Belarus.

1 5 2012
Detained human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski fined over 140 million Rubles for alleged late payment of arrears

On 29 March 2012, the Pervomaiski District Court in Minsk fined detained human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski over 140 million rubles (approx 12,700 EUR) due to the alleged late payment of arrears.

Ales Bialiatski has been imprisoned since 4 August 2011. He was sentenced and fined in November 2011, after being found guilty of tax evasion. This fine was paid by Ales Bialiatski in January 2012. Ales Bialiatski, his lawyer, colleagues and family had not reportedly been notified of the trial on 29 March 2012, which was held in the defendant's absence and without his legal representation. An appeal against the decision of the court is currently being taken by his lawyer.

Ales Bialiatski is the chairman of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna' (HRC 'Viasna'), a human rights groups in Belarus that works to defend and promote political, cultural and social rights. He is also the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

In 2003, HRC 'Viasna' was officially dissolved by the Belarusian authorities. Although it was not officially registered, HRC 'Viasna' continued to operate and due to the risk of criminal charges against its members for forming part of an unregistered organisation under the Belarusian Criminal Code, Ales Bialiatski opened a bank account for HRC 'Viasna' in Lithuania.

Ales Bialiatski was subsequently arrested and detained on 4 August 2011 on charges of “tax evasion on a particularly large scale” under Article 243 (2) of the Belarusian Criminal Code. It is believed that the arrest was directly linked to the transfer of Ales Bialiatski's Lithuanian bank account details by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Belarusian authorities under the terms of a bilateral agreement on legal assistance.

On 24 November 2011, Ales Bialiatski was found guilty of 'tax evasion on a large scale' by the Pervomaiski District Court in Minsk and was sentenced to four and a half years of strict regime imprisonment and confiscation of all property "including belongings registered in the name of other persons”. The court fined him 721 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 62,590 EUR) for alleged unpaid taxes and 36 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 3,103 EUR) for state costs, all of which were paid in double by Ales Bialiatski in January 2012 after they had increased due to inflation. On 24 January 2012, Ales Bialitski's sentencing was upheld following the hearing of a cassation appeal by the Minsk City Court.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the fine of 140 million rubles imposed on Ales Bialiatsk and sees this as part of a campaign of judicial harassment against the human rights defender in order to prevent his early release from prison. Front Line Defenders calls for an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the trial of 29 March 2012, particularly in light of Ales Bialiatsk's absence from the proceedings due to a reported lack of notification, and the evidence supporting the charge of alleged late payment of arrears.

Front Line Defenders believes that the sentencing and ongoing detention of Ales Bialiatski are solely motivated by his legitimate work as a human rights defender in Belarus. It reiterates its calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ales Bialiatski and to reverse the charges of tax evasion.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities to guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Belarus are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

24 1 2012
Sentence of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski upheld following cassation appeal

Further to the urgent appeal dated 11 November 2011, Front Line Defenders has received the following information.

On 24 January 2012, the verdict of Ales Bialitski, head of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna', was upheld following the hearing of a cassation appeal by the Minsk City Court.

On 24 November 2011, Mr Ales Bialiatski, Chairman of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna', was found guilty of 'tax evasion on a large scale' by the Pervomayski District Court of Minsk and condemned to four and a half years of strict regime imprisonment and confiscation of all property "including belongings registered in the name of other persons'. The court also fined the human rights defender 721 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 82,700 USD) for alleged unpaid taxes and 36 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 4,100 USD) for state costs.

Ales Bialiatski has been detained since 4 August 2011.

25 11 2011
Statement on sentencing of human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski

On 24 November 2011, Mr Ales Bialiatski, Chairman of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna', was found guilty of 'tax evasion on a large scale' by the Pervomayski District Court of Minsk.

Ales was condemned to four and a half years of strict regime imprisonment and confiscation of all property "including belongings registered in the name of other persons'. The court also fined the human rights defender 721 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 82,700 USD) for alleged unpaid taxes and 36 million Belarusian Rubles (approx 4,100 USD) for state costs.

Under numerous pretexts, many international observers, including Front Line Defenders Deputy Director Andrew Anderson, were denied Belarusian visas and those who managed to attend the trial were filmed by people in plain clothes and their passport data was recorded at every hearing.

Front Line Defenders' observer who attended the trial reported on the poor preparation of the Prosecution's case. The Belarusian authorities presented the prosecution of the prominent human rights defender as purely economic.

The Prosecution failed to prove the source of the alleged personal income of Ales Bialiatski, its exact amount, or that money from Western accounts was transferred to Belarus. The criminal file contained anonymous letters, photocopies and improperly presented documents accepted as criminal evidence in contravention of the Belarusian Code of Criminal Proceedings. The essence of this case – information regarding his foreign bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland – was not duly presented and should not have been permitted to be presented as evidence.

Moreover, the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice sent an official letter to the Belarusian Ministry stating that the information transmitted was not correct and could not be used as evidence.

Furthermore, as reported by Front Line's observer, the criminal file shows that this case was taken up by the KGB in November 2010 and that the official request for Ales Bialiatski's bank account information was sent to Lithuania and Poland following the KGB's letter. It proves that the inquiries to the Lithuanian and Polish banks were sent before the initiation of the criminal case, which violated the provisions of the Legal Protection Act and contributed to the illegal acceptance of evidence. Despite all that, the Public Prosecutor stated that “The validity of the financial papers is beyond doubt. It is not crucial that they do not have seals and signatures on them”.

'This trial was a legal masquerade that tried to hide political persecution behind economic charges in order to punish this prominent and courageous Belarusian human rights defender and hinder the work of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” that has been operating in Belarus since 1996,’ said Andrew Anderson.

'Viasna' had helped several hundred Belarusian citizens. The centre was involved in difficult and dangerous work, such as election monitoring, campaigning for the abolishment of the death penalty and providing financial and legal assistance to the victims of political persecution.

It comes as no surprise that this criminal case, based on apparently economic charges, was initiated by the KGB. From the beginning, the treatment of Ales Bialiatski (pretrial detention, extraordinary measure for economic charges, the numerous refusals of release despite 8000 guarantee letters sent, refusal of family visits) betrayed the political character of his persecution.

This verdict is an attempt to stop the work of ' Viasna' and to frighten the human rights movement in Belarus. We fear for the security of all our colleagues at 'Viasna' and other Belarusian human rights organisations who continue to support the victims, despite the risk of persecution'.

Front Line calls for the immediate release of Ales Bialiatski and for his conviction to be quashed as we believe that he has been targeted solely as a result of his legitimate human rights work.

2 11 2011
Front Line Defenders Statement on Trial of Ales Bialiatski

Trial of Belarus Human Rights Defender Ales Bialiatski Opens Today. Front Line Defenders Deputy Director Unable to Enter Country to Visit Other HRDs.

Dublin, Ireland, November 2, 2011 – As the trial of Human Rights Defender Ales Bialiatski opened today in Minsk Maskouski district court, Front Line Defenders Deputy Director Andrew Anderson remained in Dublin, unable to enter Belarus to meet with Bialiatski's family members and colleagues at Human Rights Centre Viasna.

Ales Bialiatsky has been brought up on what are widely regarded as trumped up charges of tax evasion and faces up to seven years in prison.

He is the chairman of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna' (HRC 'Viasna'), one of biggest human rights groups in Belarus that works to defend and promote political, cultural and social rights. He is also the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Bialiatski was arrested on 4 August 2011 and charged with tax evasion. Belarus has not allowed Viasna to register since 2003, and has taken increasingly draconian steps to prevent freedom of assembly and association.

Front Line Defenders calls on the international community to push for Bialiatski's immediate release and for the charges to be dropped, as well as for international media outlets to report on this story from what is commonly called “Europe's last dictatorship.”

Andrew Anderson, upon learning of the denial of entry visa, issued a video statement from Dublin, and said: “It's a sign of the desperation of the Belarus government that they continue to try to persecute anybody who speaks out in defense of human rights in Belarus.”

Front Line Defenders will do all it can to monitor the trial, despite the Belarusian authorities efforts to keep a curtain over what transpires in this trial.

7 8 2011
Arrest and detention of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, subject of a criminal investigation

Human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski was arrested on 4 August 2011, and is currently being detained at the Volodarskogo Pre-trial Detention Centre He is the subject of a criminal investigation following accusations that he was involved in tax evasion.

Further Information

Ales Bialiatski is the chairman of Human Rights Centre 'Viasna' (HRC 'Viasna'), one of biggest human rights groups in Belarus that works to defend and promote political, cultural and social rights. He is also the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

On 4 August 2011, at 4.30pm approximately, a group of men dressed in civilian clothing who identified themselves as finance police officers arrested Ales Bialiatski on a street in the centre of Minsk. He was taken to the Volodarskogo Pre-trial Detention Centre in Minsk, where he was initially due to be held for up to three days. Ales Bialiatski's apartment in Minsk, as well as his home in Rakov, and the HRC 'Viasna' offices in Minsk were searched and his computer was seized.

On 5 August 2011, the detention was extended to ten days. Ales Bialiatski's wife was allowed to visit him in detention and reportedly brought him clothes and food.

Ales Bialiatski is accused of “tax evasion on a particularly large scale ” under Article 243 (2) of the Belarusian Criminal Code, a crime which carries a prison sentence of up to seven-years, and confiscation of all property. The investigation is being carried out by the Department of Financial Investigations.

It is believed that the arrest is linked to the transfer of Ales Bialiatski's Lithuanian bank account details by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Belarusian authorities under the terms of a bilateral agreement on legal assistance. On 5 August 2011, the Lithuanian deputy Justice Minister stated that Lithuania had shared bank account details of 400 Belarusian citizens with the Belarusian authorities. Following the arrest of Ales Bialiatski, the Lithuanian Government reportedly decided to suspend legal assistance to Belarus.

In 2003, HRC 'Viasna' was officially dissolved by the Belarusian authorities, and several attempts to register the organisation proved to be fuitile. Although it was not officially registered, HRC 'Viasna' continued to operate but considering the risk of criminal charges being brought against its members for forming part of an unregistered organisation under Article 193 (1) of the Belarusian Criminal Code, Ales Bialiatski opened a bank account for HRC 'Viasna' in Lithuania. See Previous Front Line urgent appeal:

Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ales Bialiatski while he remains in detention. Front Line is further concerned for the security of other members of HRC 'Viasna', considering that the Lithuanian authorities reportedly shared the bank account details of 400 Belarusian citizens with the Belarusian authorities.

Front Line believes that the arrest of Ales Bialiatski is directly linked to his legitimate work as a human rights defender.