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Prominent Belarusian rights activist released after spending 3 years in prison

A Belarusian human rights advocate who was once nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize has been released early after spending nearly three years in prison.

Ales Bialiatski, head of the Vyasna rights group, was granted amnesty and released Saturday, 20 months ahead of his scheduled release.

Bialiatski's group has provided legal assistance to thousands of Belarusians who were arrested or imprisoned for challenging President Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian policies. He was sentenced to four and a half years in jail in November 2011 after a trial the West condemned as politically motivated.

The 51-year-old activist was greeted by supporters and associates at a train station in the capital, Minsk, after traveling from prison.

Analysts viewed Bialiatski's release as Lukashenko's attempt to mend relations with the West.