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Bashkir Activists To Protest Russian Security Forces' 'Lawlessness'


UFA, Russia -- Hundreds of activists in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan are planning to protest against "lawlessness" by Russian security forces and to demand the immediate release of a Bashkir nationalist leader detained on drug charges, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

World Bashkir Assembly (Kurultai) Deputy Chairman Fanzil Akhmetshin and Ilshat Gatiyatullin, the leader of the Miras (Heritage) Bashkir youth organization, were searched by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers at Ufa's airport upon their return from Somalia on November 28.

Gatiyatullin told RFE/RL that he and Akhmetshin visited Somalia to see how the funds, about $70,000, raised by Bashkir NGOs for Muslims in refugee camps there had been used. He said the FSB officers searched them after they passed through passport and customs control.

"It was really very strange," Gatiyatullin said. "They asked us to give them all our belongings, including laptops, camcorders, cameras, and mobile phones. When I checked my notebook after they returned it to me in one or two hours, I found that all of the videos, photos, and some documents had been erased -- my notebook's screen was black.

World Bashkir Assembly (Kurultai) Deputy Chairman Fanzil Akhmetshin has been formally charged with large-scale drug trafficking.

World Bashkir Assembly (Kurultai) Deputy Chairman Fanzil Akhmetshin has been formally charged with large-scale drug trafficking.

"Suddenly Fanzil disappeared. I could not find him," he added. "They told us 24 hours later he was detained because drugs were found in his belongings."

Gatiyatullin said the police had also searched Akhmetshin's apartment and that of his mother, but found nothing suspicious.

Gatiyatullin said some 500 of Akhmetshin's supporters plan to hold a mass protest at 10 a.m. on December 4 to demand his immediate release.

"We applied to the Ufa city authorities today for permission to hold the gathering in front of the FSB headquarters in Ufa on Sunday," Gatiyatullin said.

"Organizing the gathering has been coordinated via social networks on the Internet. We are now working with our lawyers regarding this situation. The protest will be against the FSB's lawlessness."

Akhmetshin has been formally charged with large-scale drug trafficking. Russian officials said this week they found opium in his suitcase.

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