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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Nobel committee blasts winner’s jail term

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has strongly criticized a jail term handed down in Belarus last week that will keep Nobel Laureate and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski behind bars for another 10 years. He won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize along with human rights organizations in Ukraine and Russia but was already in custody and not allowed to attend the Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

Bialiatski and two colleagues were convicted of allegedly smuggling money into Belarus and financing demonstrations against Belarus’ government, widely viewed as the last dictatorship in Europe. The 60-year-old is believed to be among 1,500 political prisoners jailed for challenging Belarus’ longtime president Aleksandr Lukasjenko.

His imprisonment, according to Nobel committee leader Berit Reiss-Andersen, “shows that the regime in Belarus can’t tolerate freedom of expression and opposition. We are sorry that he must continue his struggle by being held in jail.”

A total of 305 nominations for this year’s Peace Prize, meanwhile, have streamed into the committee at the Norwegian Nobel Institute’s historic building in Oslo, which is now being sold to a new Norwegian foundation set up as a memorial to prize benefactor Alfred Nobel. The goal is to reinforce the independence of both the committee and the institute from the Norwegian Parliament (charged with appointing committee members under the terms of Nobel’s will) and the Swedish Nobel Foundation, which currently owns the building.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has reported that the Norwegian Parliament made a one-time grant of NOK 300 million (nearly USD 30 million) to the institute, NOK 70 million of which will be transferred to the new foundation that in turn will buy the institute’s building from the Swedish foundation. The remainder will ensure ongoing operations of the institute. Annual grants from the Parliament, also to the institute’s library, will end from next year. staff



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