A Belarusian Nobel Peace laureate is sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Daniel Victor and Andrew Higgins – NY Times

“A Belarusian court sentenced Ales Bialiatski, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October for his decades of defending human rights in Belarus, to 10 years in prison on Friday, according to Viasna, the group that he helped found.

Mr. Bialiatski, 60, has been a pillar of the human rights movement in Eastern Europe since the late 1980s, when Belarus was part of the Soviet Union. Most members of Viasna are now in prison or living in exile from the country’s authoritarian government, which is one of Russia’s closest allies and a key supporter of its war in Ukraine.

He has been in prison since his arrest in July 2021, a detention that was widely seen as part of a sweeping and brutal crackdown on dissent that unfolded across Belarus after huge street protests erupted in 2020. Viasna said on Friday that the charges against him were “financing of group actions grossly violating the public order” and “smuggling by an organized group.”

He has denied the accusations against him, and rights groups have denounced them as fraudulent. The United Nations’ human rights organization condemned his arrest as “simply politically motivated.”

Two other members of Viasna, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich, were also sentenced to prison on Friday, the group said. A video from the proceedings showed the three men, dressed in black, calmly seated inside a defendants’ cage inside the courtroom.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, an opposition leader who fled to Lithuania in 2020, called the sentencing “appalling.”

“Ten years for a @NobelPrize laureate shows clearly what Lukashenka’s regime is,” she said on Twitter, referring to President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Belarus’s authoritarian leader since 1994. “We won’t stop fighting for our heroes.”

A lawyer for Mr. Bialiatski could not immediately be reached for comment.

The 2020 protests began after Mr. Lukashenko claimed 80 percent of the vote in what many Western governments said was a sham election. With tens of thousands of protesters demanding that he step down, he instead quashed the protests with the help of Russia, having thousands arrested and forcing opposition leaders into exile.

Efforts to stifle dissent continued in the following years, including the arrest of an opposition journalist in 2021 after the Belarusian authorities forced a commercial plane on which he was a passenger to land in Minsk, the capital.

Mr. Lukashenko repaid the Kremlin for its support in helping suppress the protests by allowing Russian forces to use Belarusian territory as a staging ground for their invasion of Ukraine a year ago. This week, he traveled to Beijing and met with Xi Jinping, the top leader of China, which has long punished dissent. One of that country’s best-known activists, Liu Xiaobo, was also awarded a Nobel Peace Prize while in prison, in 2010.

In Belarus, Viasna has been a leading rights organization, documenting violations and supporting political prisoners since its founding in 1996. Before that, Mr. Bialiatski was an advocate for democracy and Belarusian independence, organizing anti-Soviet protests in the 1980s.

He was in prison from 2011 to 2014 on a charge of tax evasion.

On Friday, the Twitter account for the Nobel Prize repeated a 2022 quote from Mr. Bialiatski: “It just so happens that people who value freedom the most are often deprived of it.”

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