21st June 2014: Ales Bialiatski, a prominent human rights defender who is President of Viasna Human Rights Centre of Belarus and Vice President of SRT grantee FIDH, was released from prison on 21st June after nearly three years in detention.
Mr Bialiatski was arrested in August 2011 on the grounds of “large-scale tax evasion” and sentenced in November 2011 to four and a half years’ imprisonment. These charges were based on his use of personal bank accounts in Poland and Lithuania to support his organisation’s human rights work in Belarus. The accounts were opened as the Belarusian authorities had refused to register the organisation since 2003, and he was therefore unable to open a Belarusian account in the name of Viasna. During his time in prison Mr Bialiatski was forced to do hard labour, and lost a large amount of weight as well as several teeth.
Immediately after Mr Bialiatski’s arrest FIDH launched an international campaign to secure his release, using the website freeales.fidh.net. Last March they also launched a campaign called #ForFreedom to accelerate the release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders throughout the world, and in June 2014 they called for Mr Bialiatski’s immediate, unconditional release in an address before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Karim Lahdiji, President of FIDH, said, “Ales is free again, at last, bringing great hope to all human rights defenders who are still incarcerated throughout the world. We will continue our fight for all of them so that they too may be free, and for the political prisoners still in jail in Belarus.”
Mr Bialiatski said, “It is the support I received from all of you, all the national and international intervention from the day I was arrested that made it possible for me to be released today”.
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