Bialiatski: “Tonkacheva has been expelled from the country for three years, I had been thrown in prison for three years”
Chairman of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" commented to RFE/RL the decision of the Belarusian authorities on the expulsion of the human rights activist Yelena Tonkacheva without the right to return to Belarus for three years.
"Definitely, they are clearing the public field before the presidential election. This decision has political overtones. In my case, I was imprisoned, whereas she was simply expelled from the country for three hours. I spent three years in prison. These penalties can be compared somehow. The authorities simply get rid of human rights activists in every way possible. The preparation to the elections is going on. They don't need any analysis of the general situation, the situation of the media, active public organizations, especially human rights ones."
Reporter: "Can we talk about at least some adequacy of the punishment for these violations?"
Bialiatski: "No, because it is a political order, it was obvious from the beginning, as soon as the problem occurred. They had the opportunity to change their mind, but they did not. This further emphasizes that it was a political order, a specific plan."
Reporter: "Don't the authorities care about the reaction of the European structures?"
Bialiatski: "Everyone cares for oneself first of all. The situation with the elections is always very eloquent, as it exceeds all other political risks.”
August 4, 2011 Ales Bialiatski was arrested on charges of tax evasion (concealment of income on an especially large scale, Article 243, part 2 of the Criminal Code). October 24, 2011 he was sentenced to 4.5 years in a correctional colony with confiscation of property for "concealment of income on a large scale". The human rights activist pleaded not guilty, saying that all the money from the accounts went to human rights work. EU countries, the US and international human rights organizations have recognized Bialiatski as a political prisoner and the sentence to him as politically motivated. Mr. Bialiatski was released under amnesty on June 21, 2014.