The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was taken to a brutal prison in Belarus, says his wife

TALLINN, Estonia — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiacki was transferred to a notoriously brutal prison in Belarus and has not been heard from for a month, his wife said on Wednesday.

Natalia Pinchuk told The Associated Press that Bialiacki, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence, has been under an information freeze since being transferred to the N9 colony for repeat offenders in the city of Gorky, where inmates are beaten and subjected to hard labor. .

“The authorities create unbearable conditions for Ales and keep him in strict informational isolation. For a month, not a single letter has arrived from him, and he doesn’t receive my letters either,” Pinchuk said by phone.

In March, the court convicted the 60-year-old Bialiacki – Belarus’s top human rights advocate and one of the recipients of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize – and three of his associates on charges of financing actions that violate public order and smuggling.

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It was the latest move in a years-long crackdown on dissent that has gripped the country since 2020.

Bialiatski has spent 20 months behind bars since his arrest in 2021, and Pinchuk is concerned that his health is deteriorating.

“I can see in recent letters how his penmanship has changed and I can see that he is deteriorating, both in terms of his health and his eyesight, and I am very, very worried about that,” he said. the United Nations to intervene.

The harsh punishment of Bialiatski and his three colleagues was a response to massive protests over the 2020 elections that would give authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko another term in office.

Lukashenko, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1994. More than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands more were arrested in the 2020 largest-ever protests in Belarus. he was beaten by the police.

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According to the Viasna Human Rights Center founded by Bialiatski, all four activists have maintained their innocence. He shared the 2022 Peace Prize with Memorial, a prominent Russian human rights group, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties.

Viasna has so far counted 1,516 political prisoners in Belarus. According to human rights defenders, the authorities are deliberately creating intolerable conditions for many of them.

For 28 days, there is no information about the fate of the imprisoned former presidential candidate Babaryka Viktar, who was reportedly beaten in his cell and taken to hospital. For 100 days, no one heard about the prominent opposition figure Nikolaj Sztatkevics, who was serving a 14-year prison sentence.