Ales Bialiatski was in prison when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year and he was sentenced to another 10 years on Friday. The 60-year-old, one of three activists in Eastern Europe who shared the prize in 2022, was convicted of financing "activities that grossly violate public order" and smuggling money, reports Reuters. Supporters say the authoritarian regime of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is trying to silence Bialiatski and other critics, the BBC reports. Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted that the sentence "is simply appalling. Ales has dedicated his life to fighting against tyranny."
Bialiatski, she wrote, is a "true hero" of Belarus and "will be honored long after the dictator is forgotten." Viasna Human Rights Center, which Bialiatski founded in 1996, said three more figures from the organization were also convicted. Valiantsin Stefanovich was given a nine-year sentence and Uladzimir Labkovicz was sentenced seven years, the AP reports. Dzmitry Salauyou, who fled Belarus before he could be arrested, was sentenced to eight years in absentia. Bialiatski, who has been a leading human rights activist since Soviet times, was arrested in 2021 in connection with the protests that swept the country after Lukashenko claimed to have won the 2020 election.
Viasna helped provide financial and legal assistance to those arrested in a crackdown on protest, Reuters reports. "The allegations against our colleagues are linked to their human rights activity, the Viasna human rights center's provision of help to the victims of politically motivated persecution," Viasna has said of the case. (Read more Belarus stories.)