Saturday, November 01, 2014

Russian Activist Bogatenkova Released From Custody

An undated screen grab from an earlier Dozhd TV report on Lyudmila Bogatenkova, of the Russian Soldiers' Mothers Committee in Stavropol

Seventy-three-year-old Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Bogatenkova has been released from detention after two nights in jail in southern Russia, according to her lawyer.

Bogatenkova, chairwoman of the Budyonnovsk branch of the Soldiers Mothers Committee human-rights NGO, was released from custody in Stavropol on October 20 after signing a statement that she would not leave the country, the lawyer told journalists.

Bogatenkova faces charges of fraud stemming from four-year-old allegations of financial wrongdoing.

The chairman of Russia's presidential rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, said he is personally monitoring Bogatenkova's case.

Rights council member Sergei Krivenko told Interfax that Bogatenkova clearly presents no threat to society and that taking her into custody "looks like revenge for her human-rights activity."

In August, Bogatenkova handed over to the presidential rights council documentation connected with the alleged deaths of dozens of Russian soldiers near a military training camp in the Rostov region, near Russia's border with the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.

The Soldiers' Mothers network has publicly alleged that Russian soldiers have died or been wounded in Ukraine and that thousands have served there during the past six months or so.

Based on reporting by Dozhd TV and Interfax

Azerbaijani Rights Activist Reportedly Asks President For Pardon

Rasul Jafarov

Azerbaijani officials say Rasul Jafarov, a rights activist who is in pretrial detention, has asked President Ilham Aliyev for a pardon.

A copy of what the Penitentiary Service said was a letter from Jafarov asking Aliyev for a pardon was posted by the news agency APA on October 16. 

Lawyers for Jafarov could not immediately be reached.

Jafarov was arrested in August and charged with treason, tax evasion, and illegal entrepreneurship.

He is one of several activists detained in Azerbaijan in recent months in what UN experts have called a "trend of repression." 

On October 15, the chairperson of the Norway-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) expressed concern about crackdowns on rights activists in oil-producing Azerbaijan.

Clare Short said the situation is "clearly problematic."

On the same day, the U.S. State Department urged Azerbaijan to release those detained for exercising fundamental rights.

Based on reporting by the Azeri Press Agency, Interfax and EITI statement

Putin Signs Bill Curbing Foreign Media Ownership Into Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill into law that limits foreign ownership in Russian media to 20 percent.

Media reports in Russia on October 15 said the law signed by Putin also prohibits media outlets from being funded or run by foreign groups or individuals, including Russians with dual nationality.

The law requires owners of media companies with foreign-owned stakes of more than 20 percent to lower these stakes by February 2017.

Duma deputy Vadim Dengin, one of the authors of the bill, said last month that some 30 media outlets operating in Russia, including "Vedomosti," "Kommersant," and "Forbes," will be affected by the law.

Some media investors have criticized the bill as the Kremlin's latest attempt to stifle media freedom.

Based on reporting by and Interfax

Kidnapped Kyrgyz Bride Reportedly Hangs Herself

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

 A Kyrgyz teenager has reportedly committed suicide after being snatched as a bride in northern Kochkor district.

Munara Beknazarova of Bishkek-based nongovernmental organization Aikyn Bagyt (Clear Direction) told RFE/RL on October 14 that an 18-year-old woman hanged herself after she was abducted by a family in the Issyk-Kul district this month.

Meanwhile, Kochkor district officials and local police denied the report by Beknazarova, saying that the incident had never taken place.

Beknazarova said the young woman, whose name was not disclosed, told a friend by phone before her suicide that she had been kidnapped and forced to be the wife of a man she did not know.

Beknazarova said the woman's parents had not informed police about their daughter but that Aikyn Bagyt did.

Kyrgyz rights activists say about 12,000 Kyrgyz women are abducted and forced into marriage every year.

Baku Concert By Russian Rocker, Kremlin Critic Makarevich Canceled


A planned concert by Russian rock musician Andrei Makarevich has been canceled in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Makarevich, front man of the legendary band Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine), has had concerts in several Russian cities canceled in recent weeks.

Pro-Kremlin lawmakers and commentators in Russia branded him a traitor after he gave concerts in Ukraine for refugees from the eastern part of the country, where government forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists.

Makarevich wrote on Facebook on October 13 that Baku city authorities cancelled the concert by him and "The Creole Tango Orchestra" in order "to avoid pro-Ukrainian actions."

The concert was scheduled for October 31 at Baku's Heydar Aliyev Palace, a venue named after the late former president whose son, Ilham Aliyev, succeeded him shortly before his death in 2003.


Russian Presidential Rights Chief Against Closing Memorial

Mikhail Fedotov

The head of Russia's presidential Human Rights Council has said he does not see any reason to close the independent rights organization Memorial. 

Mikhail Fedotov told the Interfax news agency on October 13 that there are "no grounds" for closing down Memorial.

Russia's Ministry of Justice on October 10 appealed to the Supreme Court to close Memorial, but the reasons for the request were not made public.

Fedotov said the planned November 13 Supreme Court hearing on Memorial should be rescheduled to allow Memorial to conduct its planned November 19 conference on changes to its structure.

Fedotov said the changes Memorial plans to make would address the Justice Ministry's concerns.

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.

Based on reporting by Interfax

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.

About This Blog

"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.

Journalists In Trouble

RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More