Belarus rights group leader faces 7 years in jail
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Last Updated: Saturday, August 06, 2011, 00:15
Minsk: The detained leader of the most prominent human rights group in Belarus faces up to seven years in jail for helping political prisoners and government critics in the authoritarian ex-Soviet nation, the group said on Friday.

Police detained Ales Belyatsky of the Vyasna group police outside his home in the capital, Minsk, yesterday, and also conducted searches in his apartment and countryhouse, as well as the group's offices.

Belyatsky faces up to seven years in jail on charges of "concealment of income," the group said in a statement. It said Belyatsky received large amounts of cash in neighboring Lithuania from the group's Western donors since his group was officially barred from receiving grants in Belarus.

The charges against Belyatsky "are punishment and revenge for many years of his work as a human rights advocate," the statement posted on the group's website said.

The group criticized Lithuanian authorities for providing information on Belyatsky's activities to Belarusian police, saying their cooperation "created favorable conditions for initiating a criminal case" against him.

Since 1996, the group has provided legal assistance to thousands of Belarusians who were fined, arrested or imprisoned for criticizing President Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian policies.

In 2003, authorities terminated the group's official registration for reporting violations during the presidential elections.


First Published: Saturday, August 06, 2011, 00:15

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