Belarus prosecutor requests 12-year jail term for Nobel winner Byalyatski

FILE PHOTO: Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatski meets with journalists and his supporters, after he was released from prison and arrived at a railway station in Minsk, Belarus, June 21, 2014. REUTERS/Marina Serebryakova

KYIV (Reuters) - A Belarusian prosecutor asked a Minsk court on Thursday to sentence Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Byalyatski to 12 years in prison, Byalyatski's human rights organisation said, in a case allies see as political retribution.

Byalyatski and three co-defendants, one of whom is abroad, have been charged with financing protests and smuggling money. They also face a fine of more than $73,000, the Viasna human rights organisation said.

Byalyatski, 60, is a co-founder of Viasna and one of the most prominent of hundreds of Belarusians who were jailed during a violent crackdown on anti-government protests that erupted in the summer of 2020.

Viasna took a leading role in providing legal and financial assistance to hundreds of Belarusians who were jailed during mass protests after long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

"The allegations against our colleagues are linked to their human rights activity, the Viasna human rights centre's provision of help to the victims of politically motivated persecution," Viasna has said of the case.

Byalyatski was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last October for his work on human rights and democracy, sharing it with Russian rights group Memorial and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties, but had been arrested in 2021 along with the two co-workers from Viasna.

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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