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Belarusian Rights Activist's Trial Again Postponed


Human rights activist Ales Byalyatski sits in a guarded cage in a courtroom in Minsk on November 2.

Human rights activist Ales Byalyatski sits in a guarded cage in a courtroom in Minsk on November 2.

MINSK -- A Minsk court has postponed hearings in the trial of prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyatski, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Byalyatski, the head of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center, was arrested on August 4 and subsequently charged with tax evasion. He went on trial on November 2. The next session of his trial is scheduled for November 22.

The charge stems from Byalyatski's reported use of personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors in support of human rights activities in Belarus.

On November 10, prosecutor Valery Saykouski asked the judge to adjourn the trial until November 16. He said, "the new charge [against Byalyatski] will significantly differ from the previous one," without elaborating.

Many in Belarus speculated that the new charge would probably be "conducting activities on behalf of an unregistered organization." Byalyatski did not deny that Vyasna continues to operate despite having been officially shut down by the authorities.

However, the charge read out in court on November 16, "concealing extremely large incomes," was the same as before, although the qualifying phrase "in accordance with prior agreements" was added.

The representatives of the German, U.S., British, and Lithuanian embassies and of the European Commission were present at the session, RFE/RL reported.

Byalyatski's lawyer asked the judge to postpone the hearings until November 22 in order to give him time to study the new charge.

Byalyatski pleaded not guilty to the charge of tax evasion. His colleagues and supporters say the case against him is politically motivated.

Byalyatski had been circulating reports about the authorities' crackdown on peaceful protests since the disputed presidential election in December 2010.

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