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Belarusian Activists Raise Money To Pay Jailed Rights Activist's Fine

Ales Byalyatski, in the dock, and a lawyer at his trial in November
Ales Byalyatski, in the dock, and a lawyer at his trial in November
MINSK -- Millions of Belarusian rubles raised by supporters of a jailed Belarusian human rights activist have been wired to the state treasury to pay a court-ordered fine, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The Vyasna (Spring) human rights center in Minsk told RFE/RL on January 18 that a total of 804 million Belarusian rubles ($95,400) had been raised by supporters and friends of Ales Byalyatski and that 757.5 million Belarusian rubles had been wired on Byalyatski's behalf to the state treasury's account.

Activists at Vyasna say they hope that paying Byalyatski's debt -- as defined by a court in November -- will be a positive development for him during his appeal, which is scheduled to begin on January 24.

Byalyatski, the head of Vyasna, was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in jail on November 24. Byalyatski pleaded not guilty and says the case against him is politically motivated.

The charges against Byalyatski stemmed from his reported use of personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for human rights activities in Belarus.

Byalyatski and his lawyer insist the money from the international donors was never used for his personal needs but expressly for human rights projects.

The Vyasna activists say the funds raised for Byalyatski's fine by his supporters does not mean they accept that he is guilty. They say the action was just an expression of solidarity with the jailed human rights activist.

Byalyatski's case proved a major embarrassment for both Poland and Lithuania, both of which apologized after it emerged that officials there had provided Belarusian authorities with banking information that led to the prosecution.

Read more in Belarusian here

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