Brussels, 23 November 2011 A 468/11 – Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, and Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, made today the following statement:

“We are seriously concerned about the detention and prosecution of internationally renowned Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyatski for alleged tax evasion.

We consider the charges against Ales Byalyatski in the ongoing trial as a politically motivated pretext to target his important work to the benefit of victims of repression. As such, the ongoing trial is a highly visible and symbolic manifestation of the crackdown on civil society in Belarus since the 19 December 2010 Presidential elections.

We call on Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release Ales Byalyatski and to drop the charges against him and against his deputy Valyantsin Stefanovich.”

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