President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, pictured here on 12 January, is up for reelection in March (ITAR-TASS)
16 January 2006 -- A leader of a human rights group in Belarus has been named the winner of a Norwegian human rights prize, the Sakharov Freedom Prize.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee praised Alyaksandr Byalyatski, chairman of the Human Rights Center Vyasna, for the legal, political, and practical support that he has offered to victims of the authoritarian government led by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The prize is named after Andrei Sakharov, the former Soviet dissident and human rights campaigner who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
Meanwhile, a presidential challenger to Lukashenka, Sergei Skrebets, has gone on trial in Minsk, charged with financial crimes in a case that he insists was fabricated as a means of removing him from the presidential race.
Skrebets, a former parliament deputy, is running as an independent in the election, which is scheduled for 19 March.