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Writer loses appeal, sentenced to 4 years in labour camp

UPDATE: One year on, rights defender still waiting for justice (Human Rights Watch, 2 August 2012)

(WiPC/IFEX) - Human rights activist, writer and Belarus PEN member Ales Byalyatski's appeal against a 4.5 year sentence has been upheld on 24 January 2012. He has since been transferred from a detention centre in Minsk to a labour camp in the eastern city of Babruysk. The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International continues to condemn the detention of Byalyatski on charges stemming from his human rights activism and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Ales Byalyatski was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment on 24 November 2011 on charges of tax evasion. The charges, which stemmed from Byalyatski's use of personal bank accounts to receive funding for his human rights organization Vyasna, were described as “politically motivated” in a European Union report.

Byalyatski, head of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights centre, was a founding member of the Belarusian literary organization Tutejshyja ('The Locals') and served as a former head of the MaximBahdanovichLiteraryMuseum in Minsk. He is also the author of a book of essays Jogging on the Geneva in 2006.

Byalyatski was arrested on 4 August 2011 and charged with tax evasion, charges which stemmed from his reported use of personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for Vyasna's human rights activities in Belarus. Vyasna had campaigned for scores of opposition activists persecuted by the government of President Alexsander Lukashenko. It was stripped of its official registration in 2003, making it extremely difficult under Belarus's economic laws to raise funds.

On 23 November 2011 European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Fuele called for Byalyatski's immediate and unconditional release in a joint statement which stated “We consider the charges against Ales Byalyatski in the ongoing trial a politically motivated pretext to target his important work [for] the benefit of victims of repressions”.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send appeals:
• Condemning the imprisonment of Ales Byalyatski on charges clearly aimed at preventing his legitimate in defense of human rights.
• Calling for him immediate and unconditional release.

Send appeals to:

President of the Republic of Belarus
Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Belarus
Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72
Email: [email protected]y

Please note: there have been reports that the President's email address is not working, so please consider sending your appeals via the Belarusian government website http://www.president.gov.by/en/press10650.html

Similar appeals should be sent to the Belarussian Embassy in your own country.

Please contact the PEN International Office if sending appeals after 30 March 2012

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