A senior U.S. lawmaker says Belarus should not be allowed to host the International Ice Hockey Championship because of human rights violations under the regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Senator Dick Durbin, assistant leader of the Senate's majority Democrats, says in a letter to the International Ice Hockey Federation that the 2014 championship should not be held in Minsk until Lukashenka "releases all the country's political prisoners," many of whom were arrested during Belarus's December 19 presidential election.
The letter says that Lukashenka's regime "should not be rewarded with the prestige associated with hosting" the championship while Belarus citizens "languish in jail for peacefully trying to exercise minimal political freedoms."
The letter adds that Lukashenka is ruling over what it calls a "totalitarian nightmare" in Belarus.
The letter was also signed by Peter Stastny, a National Hockey League Hall of Famer from Slovakia who is now a member of the European Parliament.
In January, Senator Durbin visited Minsk, where he met with human rights and opposition activists.
Compiled from agency reports