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Jailed Belarusian Activist Honored By U.S. State Department

Human rights activist Ales Byalyatski sits in a guarded cage in a courtroom in Minsk during his trial in November 2011.
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department has named jailed Belarusian rights activist Ales Byalyatski a recipient of its annual Human Rights Defenders Award.

The award honors "individuals or nongovernmental organizations that show exceptional valor and leadership in advocating the protection of human rights and democracy in the face of government repression."

Byalyatski is the founder of the banned Vyasna (Spring) human rights organization, which has monitored and reported on Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's ongoing crackdown on dissent.

In late 2011 he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison on tax-evasion charges, which the European Union and United States condemned as politically motivated.

Russian rights activist Igor Kalyapin, who has documented human rights abuses in Chechnya, was a nominee for the award.
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