A leading Syrian human rights activist, who faces trial for allegedly defaming Syria's image, has been awarded a prestigious international human rights award.

Syrian lawyer-activist Aktham Naisse was chosen unanimously by the 11 international human rights groups that make up the Geneva-based Martin Ennals Foundation.

In announcing the 2005 award, the jury panel said the 53-year-old Mr. Naise has for 30 years "embodied the soul of the democratic movement in Syria."

Mr. Naisse was arrested last April in Damascus, one month after his group - the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria - organized a rare protest outside Syria's parliament.  The protest highlighted demands for political reform and the repeal of Syria's emergency laws.

The group says he faces trial next week, January 16, on charges of "disseminating false information aimed at weakening the state."