Monday, February 02, 2015

Azerbaijan Prolongs Journalist Ismayilova's Pretrial Detention

Khadija Ismayil tries to greet supporters and journalists outside the Baku courtroom on Januarya 27, when she had her pretrial detention extended. (POOR QUALITY PHOTO)

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

BAKU -- A court in Azerbaijan has prolonged the pretrial detention period for Khadija Ismayilova, a jailed investigative journalist and contributor to RFE/RL.

The Sabayil District Court in Baku ruled on January 27 that Ismayilova's pretrial detention, which had been due to expire on February 5, will be extended for another two months.

Ismayilova was arrested on December 5 and ordered held in pretrial detention for two months on suspicion of inciting an attempted suicide. Her supporters say the case is politically motivated.

A day before Ismayilova's arrest, on December 4, Azeri Presidential Chief of Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev publicly accused Ismayilova of treason.

In late December, RFE/RL's bureau in Baku was ransacked and ordered closed by investigators, while dozens of RFE/RL's reporters were summoned to police for questioning related to their employment.

The European Union and U.S. officials have expressed concern over Baku's crackdown on activists and media.

Video OSCE Condemns Raid On Crimean Tatar TV Channel

Security Forces Raid Crimean Tatar TV Stationi
January 26, 2015
In Crimea, armed, masked security forces raided the headquarters of the only TV station on the Russian-controlled peninsula broadcasting in the Tatar language. ATR television said that Russia’s Investigative Committee, along with counter-terrorism officials, were looking for materials relating to a Tatar protest last year. Human rights groups say some Crimean Tatars have faced discrimination and abuse for opposing Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. (RFE/RL)
WATCH: Security Forces Raid Crimean Tatar TV Station

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 26.01.2015 14:00

RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- The headquarters of the only television channel broadcasting in the Crimean Tatar language on the annexed Black Sea peninsula are being searched by representatives of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and Investigative Committee.

Dozens of armed, masked men in unmarked military clothing surrounded the headquarters of the ATR channel on January 26 in the latest evidence of a crackdown on Crimea's Muslim minority.

They were preventing people from entering or leaving during the search.

In a statement broadcast live, ATR saying the investigators want to confiscate the channel's main computer server.

ATR's Deputy Director Lilya Budzhurova condemned the search in a live statement, saying that the company was ready to provide the investigators with the server later but that its confiscation now might disrupt broadcasts.

The OSCE's  representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, condemned the "raid" on ATR, saying: "This practice of intrusion of free and independent media cannot be tolerated in the OSCE region."

Activists, community leaders, and rights groups say Crimean Tatars have faced discrimination, pressure, and abuse for their opposition to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last March.

Kazakh Journalists' Rights Defender Joins Editor's Hunger Strike

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The head of an NGO that protects journalists in Kazakhstan has joined a hunger strike to protest the closure of an independent magazine.

Ramazan Esergepov, president of the NGO Journalists in Trouble, joined Gulzhan Erghalieva's (eds: a woman) hunger strike on January 26 in Kazakhstan's largest city,  Almaty.

Erghalieva, a prominent journalist who has faced pressure from law enforcement agencies for years, started her hunger strike on January 19 in the offices of her magazine, Adam Bol (Be a Human), to protest its closure.

In December, an Almaty court ordered Erghalieva's magazine shut down for "propagating war."

That ruling came weeks after the magazine published an interview with opposition activist Aidos Sadyqov, who is living in exile in Ukraine. In the interview, Sadyqov lambasted Russia for its involvement in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine.  

Before becoming president of Journalists in Trouble in 2012, Esergepov spent three years in jail for publishing articles he wrote about alleged links between a Kazakh businessman and the National Security Committee.

Belarusian Activists Sentenced Over Euromaidan Commemorations

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

MINSK -- Five Belarusian activists detained while commemorating victims of a crackdown on antigovernment protests in neighboring Ukraine were sentenced to jail terms on January 23.

A court in Minsk sentenced Maksim Vinyarski and Ales Makayeu to 15 days in jail and handed 10-day jail terms to Mikola Kolas and Yauhen Batura.  Volha Mikalaychyk was sentenced to five days in jail.

The five were among some 15 activists who marked a year since the deaths of the first victims of a crackdown on pro-Western Euromaidan protests in Kyiv on January 22. They prayed, sang the Ukrainian national anthem, and placed flowers at the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko near the Ukrainian Embassy in Minsk.

The activists then unfolded a portrait of Mikhail Zhyzneuski, a Belarusian national who was shot dead while protesting in Kyiv on January 22, 2014.

Police in Minsk detained nine of the activists but later released four of them.

Concert Canceled In Russia After Singer Mocked Putin With Song

RFE/RL's Russian Service

A concert by a Russian singer has been canceled after he performed a song he wrote that is critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mikhail Novitsky's concert was scheduled for January 23 at the privately run Arts Center in St.Petersburg.

But the administration of the venue told Novitsky on January 22 that his concert was canceled due to unspecified reasons beyond their control.

Novitsky told RFE/RL he thinks the cancellation was because of Putin, Hello!, a song he peformed at a recent opposition gathering in St. Petersburg.

The song mocks Putin, citing events like the 2004 Beslan school massacre and the 2000 Kursk nuclear submarine tragedy.

It also pokes fun at Putin for lifting the shirt of a 5-year-old boy at the Kremlin in 2006 and kissing his belly, and for promotional photographs of Putin with animals.

Belarusian Activist Serving Labor Sentence Starts Hunger Strike

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

KUPLIN, Belarus -- A Belarusian civil rights activist who is serving an 18-month mandatory labor sentence at a state-owned industrial facility says he is on a hunger strike.

Yury Rubtsou told RFE/RL that he started the hunger strike on January 22 to protest salary levels in Belarus, where the government recently announced that the average monthly salary is the equivalent of $600.

Rubtsou contested that figure, saying he believes the actual average is substantially lower.

Rubtsou is also calling for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government to release all "political prisoners" and to give its opponents at least one hour a day of airtime on the national television channel.

Rubtsou received the manual labor sentence last April for insulting a judge at hearing during which he was jailed for 25 days after attending an unsanctioned protest in a T-shirt that said, "Lukashenka, Go Away!"

Lukashenka has tolerated little dissent or political opposition in more than 20 years as president.


Russian Civil Rights Activists Face Criminal Prosecution

RFE/RL's Russian Service

MOSCOW -- Russia's Investigative Committee has launched investigations against civil rights activist Mark Galperin, accusing him of "multiple violation of the law on public gatherings."

Galperin's lawyer, Alla Frolova, told journalists on January 20 that her client was informed about the criminal case against him the same day, but rejected the services of the lawyer provided by the authorities and refused to answer any questions using the Constitution's 51st paragraph.

The Investigative Committee said earlier that it had launched a probe against another civil rights defender, Vladimir Ionov, also accusing him of "multiple violations of the law on public gatherings."

Galperin and Ionov were arrested on January 10 for holding up a "Je Suis Charlie" sign near the Kremlin walls, expressing solidarity with French cartoonists murdered by Islamist terrorists in Paris.

On January 15, the two activists were among 15 protesters detained at an unsanctioned rally in support of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

On January 16, a court in Moscow sentenced Galperin to 38 days in jail for both protests and fined Ionov 170,000 rubles ($2,600).

If found guilty the men may face up to five years in jail.

With reporting by

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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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