Lukashenko rival granted Czech asylum

The Associated Press
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 8:01 AM

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The Czech Republic has granted asylum to a political activist who was jailed after running against authoritarian Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko in presidential elections.

The Czech Interior Ministry says Ales Mikhalevich was given political refugee status on Thursday.

Mikhalevich unsuccessfully challenged Lukashenko in the Dec. 19 elections. He and six other candidates were among more than 700 people arrested after massive pro-democracy protests. International observers say the vote was rigged.

Mikhalevich, who was released Feb. 19 , says he was beaten, stripped naked and hung by his hands while in the custody of secret police.

He left Belarus earlier this month. The interior ministry had no other details.

© 2011 The Associated Press