26.09.2012 / 10:22

Alies Bialiacki Awarded US Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Defenders Prize

Photo from the family archive of the Bialiackis

The wife of imprisoned Belarusian human rights defender Alies Bialiacki received the US Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award on behalf of her husband in Warsaw on September 25.

The awards ceremony took place at the residence of the US ambassador to Poland, Lee Feinstein and was timed to coincide with Mr. Bialiacki's 50th birthday.

Mr. Feinstein read out a message from US State Secretary Hillary Clinton recognizing Mr. Bialiacki for his achievements, commitment, and courage, according to the embassy.

Mr. Bialiacki was named the winner of the award in May together with Uganda's Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

Alies Bialiacki has bravely advocated on behalf of victims of political oppression and their families despite harassment by the Government of Belarus, the press office of the US State Department said in a statement. As the founder of Viasna, one of Belarus' leading human rights organizations, Bialiacki provided legal and practical support to victims of an on-going crackdown and acted as a key source of information about human rights violations. He is currently a political prisoner, serving a four and a half year sentence for defending human rights.

The Human Rights Defenders Award recognizes individuals or non-governmental organizations that show exceptional valor and leadership in advocating the protection of human rights and democracy in the face of government repression, the press office said.

Alies Bialiacki, who is vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights, was arrested in Minsk on August 4, 2011.

On November 24, 2011, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on a charge of large-scale tax evasion. The charge stemmed from information about his bank accounts abroad, which was thoughtlessly provided by authorities in Lithuania and Poland under interstate legal assistance agreements. During his trial, Mr. Bialiacki insisted that the money transferred by various foundations to his bank accounts abroad had been intended to finance Viasna's activities and therefore could not be viewed as his income subject to taxation.

Members of the European Parliament have nominated Mr. Bialiacki for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012.