Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baku Rally Demands President's Resignation, Closer Ties With EU

The event was organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces, a pro-democracy movement of Azerbaijan’s united opposition.

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 12.10.2014 12:49

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

Thousands of opposition supporters in Azerbaijan have attended an antigovernment rally in the capital, Baku, demanding the resignation of President Ilham Aliyev and an end to the repression of human rights defenders and civic activists.

Demonstrators also demanded closer integration between Baku and the European Union and the release of political prisoners.

A protester urges the release of activist Yadigar Sadiqov, who is serving a six-year prison sentence.A protester urges the release of activist Yadigar Sadiqov, who is serving a six-year prison sentence.
A protester urges the release of activist Yadigar Sadiqov, who is serving a six-year prison sentence.
A protester urges the release of activist Yadigar Sadiqov, who is serving a six-year prison sentence.

The event on October 12 was organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces, a pro-democracy movement of Azerbaijan’s united opposition.

The rally was permitted by municipal authorities on condition that it was held at a stadium in a remote part of Baku.

Although the event was peaceful, organizers faced what they called “clear provocations from the authorities in order to discredit the opposition.”

RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service reports that several people tried to raise the black flag of Islamic State militants at the event, prompting rally organizers to ask police to remove those individuals from the area.

Although police detained them, one man with an IS banner was spotted later walking freely in the area.

Russian Justice Ministry Asks To Close Memorial Rights Group

Chairman Arseny Roginsky said Memorial received a telegram from the Supreme Court stating that the lawsuit calling for its liquidation would be heard.

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 10.10.2014 17:59


Russia's Justice Ministry has appealed to the country's Supreme Court to close the independent rights organization Memorial.

A hearing in the lawsuit to liquidate the group is set to be held November 13, according to the Supreme Court's website.

The lawsuit was filed by the ministry September 24 and accepted by the Supreme Court the next day, Russian news agencies RIA Novosti and Interfax reported on October 10.

Russian prosecutors had earlier attempted to have Memorial officially registered as a "foreign agent" under a new Russian law, but a Moscow court struck down that request.

Reports did not mention on what grounds the Justice Ministry is seeking to have Memorial closed.

Memorial board member Yan Rachinsky said the lawsuit was groundless and vowed that the group would file a complaint about the legal action to Russia’s Constitutional Court.

“The Justice Ministry is restricting citizens’ rights to associate,” Interfax cited Rachinsky as saying. “Furthermore, the Justice Ministry doesn’t have a solid constitutional basis. [It] does not have the authority to interfere with citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Created in the late 1980s by a group of Soviet-era dissidents, including Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov, Memorial has served as a tireless rights watchdog and important source of Soviet-era records for historians for a quarter century.

Memorial chairman Arseny Roginsky, a former prisoner in the Soviet Gulag, said the ministry had not formally informed the organization about the lawsuit. Instead, it received a telegram from the Supreme Court stating that the lawsuit calling for Memorial’s liquidation would be heard, Roginsky told the Russian news agency RBK.  

Roginsky said the ministry has long had problems with Memorial’s organizational structure. Instead of having a head office that opens local branches across Russia, Memorial consists of dozens of independent grassroots organizations that later joined up, RBK cited Roginsky as saying.

If the Supreme Court rules to close Memorial, it does not mean that these organizations will be shuttered as well, Roginsky said.

“Some will have to reregistered, and then we will figure out a way to unite once again,” he told RBK.

With reporting by RIA Novosti, Interfax, RBK and

Russian Civil Rights Activist Shekhtman Detained In Moscow

Police in Moscow have detained Pavel Shekhtman, a Russian civil rights activist and Kremlin critic.

Shekhtman's lawyer told the online news site that his client was detained on October 8 over recent publications in the Internet, but did not give details.

He said Shekhtman was being held in a Moscow pretrial detention center.

Shekhtman is known for his criticism of the Kremlin over rights abuses in Russia.

In March, Shekhtman was attacked by members of a group led by nationalist opposition politician Eduard Limonov over his criticism of Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Russia annexed the Crimea region form Ukraine in March and Kyiv and the West say Moscow has sent troops and weapons to help pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Based on reporting by and

Kyrgyz Parliamentary Committee Backs Draft Antigay Bill

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

A parliamentary committee in Kyrgyzstan on October 7 approved the language of draft legislation that would ban what it calls gay "propaganda."

Kurmanbek Dyikanbaev, a co-author of the bill, told RFE/RL the proposal will be sent to parliament for debate and would become law if approved by the parliament and signed by Kyrgyzstan's president.

The bill calls for "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to be punished by up to one year in jail.

It says journalists found guilty of "propagating" homosexual relations also will be held accountable.

The bill also bans the creation of groups that defend the rights of  the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Dyikanbaev told RFE/RL the proposal aims to preserve "traditional family values" and stands against the legalization of same-sex relations that he says is being "propagated by the West."

Iraqi Yazidi Legislator Awarded Politkovskaya Prize

Vian Dakhil

The only ethnic Yazidi member of Iraq's parliament has won an international award for her efforts to protect members of the minority from the militant group Islamic State.

Vian Dakhil received the London-based organization RAW in WAR's Anna Politkovskaya Award, which honors women working to help those trapped in conflict, on October 6. 

Dakhil, who broke a leg in a helicopter crash in August while delivering aid to Yazidis on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, vowed to continue her campaign.

She told the Thomson Reuters Foundation: "We are peaceful people, but our men are being butchered, and our women and girls are being tortured, raped, and taken as slaves."

The award is named after Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who exposed human rights abuses in Chechnya and was assassinated on October 7, 2006.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Iran Frees Journalist, Leaving Her Husband Still In Jail

Jason Rezaian and Yeganeh Salehi were arrested in Tehran on the night of July 22.

Tehran has reportedly freed Iranian journalist Yeganeh Salehi on bail, but her husband -- "Washington Post" correspondent Jason Rezaian -- remains in detention.

Salehi works for "The National," an English-language newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates.

She was held for more than two months without charge. 

"The National" cited Ali Rezaian, Jason Rezaian's brother, as saying that Salehi was released last week and that both reporters were "physically healthy." 

Jason Rezaian has dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship.

Salehi and Rezaian were detained at their home in Tehran on July 22.

Iranian authorities have refused to provide details on the case. 

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says Iran has about 35 imprisoned journalists and is in the top three countries for jailing reporters.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

Belarusian Activist Vinahradau Detained Again, Faces Trial

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

A Belarusian activist who has been in and out of jail many times has been detained again.

Paval Vinahradau, a member of the opposition youth group Zmena (Change), left home to report to a parole officer at a Minsk police station on October 2 and did not return.

Vinahradau's wife quoted police officials as saying he would be tried on October 3. The charge was not clear.

On September 11, Vinahradau was sentenced to 15 days in jail for using vulgar words in public.

He has been sentenced to terms of several days in jail 17 times in recent years. In ten of those cases, the charge was swearing in public.

He and his supporters say the cases are politically motivated.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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