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Nobel Peace Prize laureate jailed

March 3, 2023
FILE: Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Beliatski, here in the courtroom in Minsk on January 5, was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in a maximum-security penal colony. (Vitaly Pivovarchik/BELTA/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski was sentenced by a court in Minsk on Friday to 10 years in a maximum-security penal colony, Russia state news agency TASS reports. He was found guilty on the charge of smuggling, according to TASS.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya slammed the sentencing of Bialiatski and other activists in the same trial as “appalling.”

“We must do everything to fight against this shameful injustice & free them,” she wrote on Twitter.

Germany called the 10-year prison term an attack by Minsk on civil society. On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock slammed the charges and trial against Bialiatski and co-defendants Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich as a ”farce” adding they were being judged ”simply because of their years-long fight for the rights, dignity and freedom of people in Belarus.”

”The Minsk regime is fighting civil society with violence and imprisonment,” Baerbock said, adding ”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 demanded the release of all of the more than 1,400 political prisoners.

Bialiatski, a pro-democracy activist, has documented human rights abuses in Belarus since the 1980s. He founded the organization Viasna, or Spring, in 1996 after a referendum that consolidated the authoritarian powers of president and close Russian ally, President Alexander Lukashenko.

The activist was arrested in 2020 amid widespread protests against Lukashenko’s regime.

Bialiatski won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 alongside human rights groups from Russia and Ukraine.

The new laureates were honored for “an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power” in their respective countries. “They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said at the time.

Belarusian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya congratulated Bialiatski. “The prize is an important recognition for all Belarusians fighting for freedom & democracy,” she wrote in a tweet three years ago. “All political prisoners must be released without delay.”

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