'My internment helped our cause' says Belarusian dissident
PR dla Zagranicy
Recently released Belarusian dissident Ales Bialiatski said in Warsaw on Thursday that his three-year internment helped the cause of human rights in his homeland.
Ales Bialiatski speaking in Warsaw as a guest of the Stefan Batory Foundation and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Photo: PAP/Rafal Guz
Bialiatski served 1050 days in a Belarusian penal colony after a Minsk court ruled that he had failed to pay taxes on money accumulated in bank accounts in Poland and Lithuania.
The defendant, who runs a human rights foundation, had argued that the money was for charitable purposes. The court ruling was vehemently condemned by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the OSCE.
“The [Belarusian] authorities wanted me to ask for a pardon, but that would have meant a moral victory for them,” he said.
Bialiatski said that paradoxically, his stint behind bars did more for the dissidents' cause than he could have achieved on the outside.
He recalled a conversation with a Serbian human rights activist who had told him that sometimes the most effective way to fight “is to do nothing.”
Bialiatski noted that he only came to fully understand the wisdom of this comment once he had been interned.
However, he did not criticise those who fled the country out of fear of repression, arguing that with 21st century technology, “you can sit in New Guinea and work for the Belarusian cause.”
Bialiatski's imprisonment caused embarrassment to Poland and Lithuania when it emerged that the two countries had unwittingly forwarded information on the defendant's bank accounts to Belarusian authorities.
Foreign Minister of Poland described the action as a 'reprehensible mistake,' and apologised to Bialiatski.
Thursday's meeting in Warsaw was organised by Stefan Batory Foundation and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. (nh)