An opposition leader in Belarus has been released after being detained trying to enter a political convention in Minsk.

Police officials say presidential hopeful Alexander Kozulin was detained while trying to register to attend a political gathering.

Witnesses say Mr. Kozulin was beaten and driven to a police station where he was detained.

He was later released, but prosecutors say he may face charges of hooliganism for allegedly shoving a police officer and damaging a picture of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Mr. Kozulin is one of three people challenging Mr. Lukashenko in elections scheduled for March 19.

The United States has criticized Mr. Lukashenko, calling him Europe's last dictator. The Belarusian leader has, in turn, railed against what he called Western attempts to destabilize his administration.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.