On November 24, 2011, human rights activist, writer, and Belarus PEN Member Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment on charges of tax evasion. The charges, which stemmed from Bialiatski’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 released earlier this week. PEN International condemns the detention of Bialiatski on charges stemming from his legitimate human rights activism and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Background Information

Bialiatski, head of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center, was a founding member of the Belarusian literary organization Tutejshyja (The Locals) and served as a former head of the Maxim Bahdanovich Literary Museum in Minsk. He is also the author of a book of essays called Jogging on the Geneva, published in 2006. He was arrested on August 4, 2011, and charged with tax evasion, 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. The organization had been stripped of its official registration in 2003, making it extremely difficult under Belarus’s economic laws to raise funds for its activities.
On November 23, 2011, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Fuele called for Bialiatski’s immediate and unconditional release in a joint statement which stated, “We consider the charges against Ales Bialiatski in the ongoing trial a politically motivated pretext to target his important work [for] the benefit of victims of repressions.”

Write A Letter

  • Condemning the sentence given to Ales Bialiatski, which appears to be part of an attempt to clamp down on opposition activism in Belarus;
  • Calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

Send Your Letter To

President of the Republic of Belarus
Aleksandr G. Lukashenko
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72
Email: pres@president.gov.by
Via web site: http://www.president.gov.by/en/press10650.html

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Belarus in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after December 23, 2011: ftw [at] pen.org