The Leninsky District Court in Belarus has sentenced recent Nobel Peace Prize recipient Ales Bialiatski to 10 years in a maximum-security prison and fined him $65,000, according to the Russian News Agency TASS.

Three people who worked with Bialiatski — Valentin Stefanovich, Vladimir Labkovich and Dmitry Solovyov — were also given sentences of various lengths and each fined $45,000.

The court found them guilty of smuggling funds, as well as training “various individuals to take part in actions constituting gross violations of public order, and also finance such events ‘under the guise of human rights and charitable activities.’”

All of them had entered not guilty pleas.

Global criticism

Numerous news articles on the verdict said that the court has a record of harshly sentencing human rights activists, prompting global leaders to scrutinize recent decisions by the Leninsky District Court.

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CNN says Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is calling the government unjust in wanting to put the defendants in imprisonment due to their resistance and civil rights activism.

“Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya denounced the court verdict on Friday as ‘appalling,’” per NBC News. She has spoken out against the verdict on Twitter, urging the public to fight for Bialiatski’s freedom and the freedom of the other activists.

“European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned what he described as ‘sham trials’, adding they were ‘yet another appalling example of the Lukashenko regime trying to silence those who stand up in defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people in Belarus,’” BBC says.

Bialiatski, who has a strong history of challenging the Belarusian government, has 10 days to appeal.

Nobel Peace Prize

Bialiatski is a longtime human rights activist and founder of the Minsk-based human rights organization Viasna. It started in 1996 as a group freeing arrested protesters from imprisonment and grew into a powerful political movement, becoming an official member of the International Federation for Human Rights in 2004.

Stefanovich, Labkovich, and Solovyov are all members of Viasna.

Bialiatski has been imprisoned on similar charges in the past, always pleading not guilty. On the night he was presented the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022, his wife received the award on his behalf while he was serving time in prison.

She shared his words on that international stage: “This award belongs to all my human rights defender friends, all civic activists, tens of thousands of Belarusians who have gone through beatings, torture, arrests, prison. This award belongs to millions of Belarusian citizens who stood up and took action in the streets and online to defend their civil rights.”