#FreeViasna: Latest news on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders
On September 17, #FreeViasna campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned Viasna members was launched. Here’s the latest news about them.
Ales Bialiatski is a Nobel Peace Prize winner
On October 7, 2022, the Nobel Committee announced the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded to the Viasna Chair Ales Bialiatski, the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, and the Russian human rights organization Memorial. Bialiatski was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the sixth time this year. He became the fourth person to receive the prize while in prison or in detention.
The news of the prize has reached Bialiatski in the pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Minsk where he has been held for almost 15 months. On September 25, Ales Bialiatski celebrated his 60th birthday behind the bars.
Congratulations to the winner and reactions on the receiving of this outstanding award continue to come from all over the world.
Viasna Chairman Ales Bialiatski was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2022 together with the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties and the Russian human rights organization Memorial. Bialiatski was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the sixth time this year. He became the fourth person to receive the prize while in prison or in detention.
Viasna received the Albie Awards 2022
On September 29, in New York, the Human Rights Center Viasna was awarded The Albie Awards 2022 established by the Clooney Foundation in the “Justice for Democracy Advocates” category.
“Human rights are universal, inalienable, and belong to us from birth because we are humans. They do not depend on the will of individual autocrats, who cannot take them away from us.
In this difficult situation, Belarusian human rights defenders dare to keep on with their work despite all attempts to marginalize and criminalize their activities and force them to flee the country. So does Viasna.
This award is a great support to us in our mission. Support to the members of Viasna who were thrown behind bars for their peaceful, legitimate human rights activities, those who paid a great price for that—their personal freedom,” wrote Valiantsin Stefanovic in a letter that his wife Alina read on the ceremony.
A short film about the work of Viasna was prepared for the awards:
Charges on Viasna members upgraded to smuggling and financing protests
It became known that the criminal charges of ‘tax evasion‘ against Valiantsin Stefanovic, Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovich, and other Viasna activists under Part 2 of Article 243 of the Criminal Code were dropped. Instead, they were charged with ‘smuggling (illegal movement of cash across the customs border of the Eurasian Economic Union on a large scale by an organized group’ under Part 4 Article 228 of the Criminal Code and ‘financing of group actions grossly violating the public order’ under Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code. The state's claims remain for the same amount of money, which appeared in the charges for tax evasion. The three political prisoners now face from 7 to 12 years in jail. They continue to be held behind bars.
Viasna's statement in connection with the start of “special proceedings” and the toughening of accusations against our colleagues
The accusations against our colleagues are related to their human rights activity, their assistance to victims of politically motivated persecution as part of the Viasna work, and are the result of Viasna registration and re-registration denial which was twice considered by the UN Human Rights Committee as a violation of the right to freedom of association.
Valiantsin Stefanovic sent a letter from jail, in which he shared his views on the charges of ‘smuggling’ under Article 228 of the Criminal Code:
“I am a hostage, I am a prisoner, and things will be decided on a completely different basis. That's why I don't care what they accuse me of and what story they want to concoct. They accuse me of helping people.
So let them put me in jail for that, it's an honorable thing to be in jail for that for me, a human rights defender.
I'm proud of it! To them, I am a smuggler, and to the people, I am the one who has been helping them all these years. Yes, that is who I am!
I'm the one who has stayed in his place, stayed to the end.”
There has been no recent news from Viasna human rights activist Uladzimir Labkovich.
Leanid Sudalenka celebrated his 56th birthday behind bars
The head of Homieĺ branch of Viasna Leanid Sudalenka celebrated his 56th birthday behind bars in penal colony No. 3.
Bundestag member Konstantin von Notz congratulated Leanid Sudalenka on his birthday in his video address. Konstantin is Leanid's symbolic “godfather” in the #WeStandBYyou solidarity campaign initiated by the Swiss-German human rights organization Libereco.
Tatsiana Lasitsa is out of jail
Political prisoner Tatsiana Lasitsa, a Viasna volunteer, was unexpectedly released from the Homieĺ penal colony on September 24. She spent a total of 20 months behind bars.
Political prisoner, human rights activist, and Viasna volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa was unexpectedly released from Homieĺ correctional facility. Tatsiana spent behind bars a total of 1 year and 8 months.
It also became known that Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa were put on the list of extremists.
Leanid and Tatsiana were detained in January 2021. In November of last year, Judge Siarhei Salouski sentenced Leanid to three years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony, and Tatsiana to two and a half years.
Call to support Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk
For more than two years, the coordinator of Viasna volunteer service Marfa Rabkova and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk who are sentenced to 15 and 6 years of imprisonment respectively have been kept behind bars. Now the political prisoners will wait for 3 to 4 months for the consideration of the appeal against the sentence. One can still support them by donating money on the BySol website.