US seeks immediate release of Belarus activist

WASHINGTON - The United States called on Monday for the immediate release of Ales Belyatsky, a leading Belarussian human rights activist detained last week on tax evasion charges his rights group denounced as political.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko's government has cracked down on the opposition after a disputed December 2010 election in which he secured a fourth term, sentencing dozens, including former presidential candidates, to prison for taking part in a rally to protest against the election results.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner described Belyatsky's detention as the latest in a series of rights violations by the Lukashenko government.
"We are deeply concerned about the arrest," Toner said of Belyatsky's arrest, which his group, Vesna-96, said occurred late on Thursday. The group has provided legal aid to those prosecuted over the December rally and runs a website to publicize alleged cases of human rights abuses.
"Belyatsky's arrest represents another unfortunate sign of Belarus's self-isolation and violation of international standards on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law," he said.