Europe

Lukashenko's Belarus: Rights group Viasna to be evicted

Ales Belyatski sits in a cage in court in Minsk, 24 November 2011
Image caption Ales Belyatski was jailed last November

The authorities in Belarus have ordered a human rights group to vacate its office, a year after jailing its founder for tax evasion.

Officials said they would confiscate the flat in Minsk used by the Viasna group as part of the sentence imposed on Ales Belyatski last November.

A spokesman for Viasna, which was de-registered by the authorities in 2003, vowed its work would continue.

The EU criticised the case against Belyatski as "politically motivated".

The human rights activist was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison after the court found he had kept bank accounts in Poland and Lithuania.

He argued the accounts were necessary for his organisation because the Belarusian government prevented him from holding money inside the country.

Court bailiffs have given Viasna until next Monday to leave the flat, used by the group for the past 12 years.

"Of course this will make our life harder," Belyatski's deputy, Valentin Stefanovich, told AFP news agency.

"The office is well-known, recognisable, and people knew how to find us when something happened to them."

Viasna was stripped of its registration in 2003 without explanation, the group says.

The former Soviet republic has been ruled since 1994 by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been accused of persecuting dissidents in order to maintain his hold on power.

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