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Belarusian Rights Activist's Tax Trial Adjourned Again

Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatski

Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatski

A Minsk court has adjourned until November 23 the tax-evasion 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.

On November 10, prosecutor Valery Saykouski asked Judge Syarhey Bandarenka to adjourn the trial until November 16 as a new charge would be brought against Byalyatski.

But 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.

Byalyatski's lawyer Zmitser Layeuski nonetheless asked the judge on November 16 to postpone further proceedings until November 22 in order to give him time to study the new charge.

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.

Byalyatski refused to answer any questions in court at the postponed hearing on November 22, saying that the new charge does not differ from the previous one. He also said previous sessions "have shown that the charge is absolutely unsubstantiated."

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

If found guilty, Byalyatski could face up to seven years in jail, and his property could be confiscated.

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