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
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
In 2003, authorities terminated the group`s official
registration for reporting violations during the presidential