The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have welcomed the release of prominent Belarusian journalist and human rights activist, Ales Bialiatski, but have condemned the long and unjust period he has endured in prison.
According to IFJ/EFJ affiliate, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), Bialiatski, head of the human rights center Viasna and a member of BAJ, was released from prison on 21 June. He was informed that he was released under an amnesty in the country. He served more than two thirds of his sentence – in all 1052 days.
“We welcome the release of our colleague Ales Bialiatski and we join his family, friends and colleagues to celebrate this wonderful news,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “But it is a miscarriage of justice that he served any time at all in prison let alone nearly three years of his life. He committed no crime and his imprisonment was politically motivated and entirely unjust.”
Bialiatski was arrested on August 4, 2011 by the Department of Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee on the grounds of money lodged in a foreign bank account in his name. This money was being used for activities run by Viasna which deals with political persecution, election violations, and denied registration in Belarus.
But on November 24, 2011, a judge at the Pershamayski district court of Minsk Siarhei Bandarenka found Bialiatski guilty of large-scale tax evasion and sentenced him to four and a half years in a high-security prison, while his property was confiscated and he was told to pay damages to the state of 757 million rubles (around 90 thousand US Dollars).
Bialiatski pleaded not guilty and considered the case politically motivated. The damage was raised from public donations and paid. His appeal was dismissed and he spent nearly three years in prison.
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