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Belarusian human rights activist Ales Byalyatski sits in a guarded cage in a courtroom in Minsk during his trial in November 2011.
Jailed Belarusian rights activist Ales Byalyatski has won the first Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize for his "tireless work to uphold the rights of citizens" in the country.

"In his daily fight against violations of human rights and against injustice, arbitrariness, and authoritarianism, [Byalyatski] worked without respite so that the citizens of Belarus can one day enjoy European standards," Jean Claude Mignon, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said on September 30 in announcing the award in Strasbourg.

SAKHAROV SHORTLIST: Byalyatski, Other Belarusians Make Cut For European Rights Award

Byalyatski helped found Belarus's opposition Popular Front and heads the Vyasna (Spring) human rights group.

He was sentenced in November 2011 to 4 1/2 years in prison on tax-evasion charges that his supporters say were politically motivated.

ALSO READ: Outraged Belarusians Link Up In 'Chained Solidarity'

The charges stemmed from Byalyatski's alleged use of personal accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for human rights activism in Belarus.

The U.S. State Department has called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release Byalyatski and other political prisoners in the country.

Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience.

"This [prize] is an appreciation of the many years of his rights activism, his principled position, heroism, his openly standing up for human rights and freedom of his people, as well as of his love of Belarus," Byalyatski's wife, Natallya Pinchuk, said in accepting the prize on his behalf.

WATCH: Natallya Pinchuk accepts the prize.
Jailed Belarusian Activist's Wife Receives Havel Prize On His Behalf
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"The fight against human rights violations, support of, and assistance for those who became victims in the struggle for democratic views are the inspiration behind the activities of the rights organization Vyasna he established in 1996. The degree, to which the activities of this organization had been hindering the authorities from lawlessness, can be judged by the ban on Vyasna's activities and multiple arrests of Ales; the last one, alas, being his long-term imprisonment that has been ongoing for over two years now."

The Vaclav Havel Prize rewards outstanding civil-society action in the defense of human rights in Europe and beyond.

It's awarded by PACE in partnership with the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague and the Czech Charter 77 Foundation. It is worth 60,000 euros ($81,000).

The three shortlisted nominees also included Georgia's Young Lawyers' Association and the Rights Defense Network of China.
Hilal Mamamdov, editor in chief of "Tolisi Sado" newspaper, in a 2012 photo
BAKU -- A court in Baku has sentenced the editor of an ethnic minority newspaper to five years in prison.

Hilal Mamedov, the editor of the Baku-based "Tolisi Sado" (The Voice of Talysh) independent newspaper, was found guilty of high treason, incitement of ethnic, religious, and racial hatred, and drugs possession.

Mamedov, who was arrested in June 2012, protested his innocence again in the courtroom on September 27.

Mamedov's newspaper is printed in the Talysh language, a branch of Persian.

The Talysh minority's leader in Azerbaijan, Novruzali Mamedov, who edited the newspaper before Hilal Mamedov, died in prison in 2009 after being found guilty of spying for Iran and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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