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NGOs Complain Of Minsk Repression

LONDON, Aug. 11 (UPI) — A decision by authorities in Belarus to sideline human rights groups in the country makes it nearly impossible to hear independent voices, critics say.

Belarusian authorities had charged Ales Bialatski with tax evasion. Bialatski served as the head of human rights group Viasna.

Human Rights Watch said it “appears” he was arrested because he was using a personal bank account in Lithuania to back human rights groups in Belarus. The advocacy group said Minsk refuses to register most human rights groups in the country, meaning organizations like Viasna can’t set up bank accounts in the country.

In a letter signed by 10 groups, Human Rights Watch said Minsk was, by its actions, using its legal system to intimidate human rights defenders in the country.

“For this reason, we believe that the criminal investigation against Bialatski is politically motivated and that he should be unconditionally released and the investigation should be dropped,” the open letter addressed to the prosecutor general in Minsk read.

Belarus is facing mounting international criticism over its human rights record following a crackdown against opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko following last year’s election.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

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