The United States categorically rejects the verdict pronounced today by a Minsk court in the cases of Viasna leaders Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Dzmitry Salauyou, and Uladzimir Labkovicz.
And yet, we are not surprised. Sentences of 7-10 years in detention have become a regular part of the lexicon of repression utilised by the Lukashenka regime since the fraudulent presidential election of August 2020. Their intent is to silence leaders of democratic forces, civil society activists, and human rights defenders. Their aim is to construct the semblance of stability at a moment of domestic disenfranchisement and regional insecurity. Their priority is the preservation of political power at the expense of sovereignty and independence and individual freedoms. These efforts will fail.
Mr. Bialiatski and his colleagues have demonstrated their decades-long commitment to safeguard the independence of Belarus and insist on its democratic character. Viasna is a pillar of the global community of human rights defenders. The United States stands by their side and in support of their efforts.
We call on Belarusian authorities to release Mr. Bialiatski, Mr. Stefanovich, and Mr. Labkovicz, who were tried in person, and each of the more than 1,400 political prisoners in Belarusian jails. We call for an end to the repression of Belarusian democratic forces and civil society. We recommit ourselves to continue to support the aspirations of the Belarusian people for a democratic, sovereign, and stable future.