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UN Expert Urges Minsk To Release Byalyatski

Ales Byalyatski in court in 2011
Ales Byalyatski in court in 2011
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus has urged the Belarusian government to "immediately and unconditionally" release imprisoned rights activist Ales Byalyatski.

Miklos Haraszti said in a statement issued on August 2 that Byalyatski's detention is "a symbol of the repression against human rights defenders."

Byalyatski, who helped found the opposition Popular Front and heads the human rights group, Vyasna (Spring), was sentenced in November 2011 to 4 1/2 years in prison on tax-evasion charges that his supporters say are politically motivated.

The charges stemmed from Byalyatski's alleged use of personal accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for rights activities in Belarus.

Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience and Western leaders have called for his unconditional release.