The head of a human rights group has gone on trial for tax evasion in Belarus in a case activists say is politically motivated.
Ales Belyatsky faces up to seven years in jail over bank accounts he held in Poland and Lithuania. He denies failing to declare ‘large-scale income’, saying the cash really belonged to his rights group.
Belarus virtually rules out any financial help for NGOs from beyond its borders. So Belyatsky supporter Oleg Gulak from the Belarussian Helsinki Committee says the 49-year-old was forced to keep the money abroad in personal accounts to enable his group, Vesna, to function properly.
Poland and Lithuania have expressed regret for providing the bank data to the authoritarian Belarus regime.
Scores of fellow rights activists joined Western diplomats and opposition figures at the start of the trial in Minsk.