Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to ten years in a maximum-security prison by a court in Minsk on Friday, March 3, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS.
According to TASS, he was found guilty on the charge of smuggling.
Germany described the Minsk government’s 10-year prison sentence as an attack on civil society.
On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the charges and trial against Bialiatski and co-defendants Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich a “farce,” adding that they were being judged “simply for their years-long fight for people’s rights, dignity, and freedom in Belarus.”
“With violence and imprisonment, the Minsk regime is fighting civil society,” Baerbock said, adding that “this is as much a daily disgrace as Lukashenko’s support for Putin’s war (in Ukraine).”
Baerbock urged Belarus to end political persecution and called for the release of all 1,400 political prisoners.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, an exiled Belarusian opposition leader, called the sentencing of Bialiatski and other activists in the same trial “appalling.”
“We must do everything we can to fight this heinous injustice and free them,” she wrote on Twitter.
Since the 1980s, Bialiatski, a pro-democracy activist, has documented human rights violations in Belarus. He founded Viasna in 1996, following a referendum that consolidated the authoritarian powers of President Alexander Lukashenko, a close Russian ally.
He was arrested in 2020 during widespread anti-Lukashenko protests.
Bialiatski was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 alongside human rights organizations from Russia and Ukraine.
The new laureates were recognized for “outstanding efforts to document war crimes, human rights violations, and power abuses” in their respective countries. “They have long promoted the right to criticize power and protect citizens’ fundamental rights,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated at the time.