Saturday, April 19, 2014


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OSCE: Journalists Face Violence, Intimidation In Ukraine

Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE representative on freedom of the media (file photo)

RFE/RL
The media-freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says the situation for reporters in Ukraine has reached a dangerous stage.

Dunja Mijatovic spoke to reporters on April 16 after making a three-day trip to Kharkiv, Odesa, and Kyiv, where she spoke with journalists from those regions as well as with reporters from Donetsk, Mykolayiv, and Crimea.

She said journalists in Ukraine's conflict areas are "under attack, both physically and as part of ongoing psychological warfare."

Mijatovic said: "Journalists in conflict areas face violence, seizure, and destruction of equipment, and threats on a daily basis."

She said journalists in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia in March, must contend with additional problems such as re-registration, possible eviction from the region if they are deemed as disloyal and do not obtain Russian citizenship, threats, and denial of access to public information.

Mijatovic urged journalists in Ukraine to have solidarity, and to "report the truth and to stay safe."

Kazakh Police Arrest Astana Property Protesters

Astana residents blocked the road outside the Prosecutor General's Office in Astana on April 11.

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
ASTANA -- Police in the Kazakh capital, Astana, have dispersed a public protest by some 30 local residents who demanded proper compensation for their property, which they say was confiscated by local authorities.
 
A total of 27 protesters, including 12 children, were detained by police, forcibly placed on buses, and later released on April 11.
 
The protesters gathered in front of the Prosecutor-General's Office demanding to meet with Prosecutor-General Askhat Dauylbaev.
 
Protesters said city authorities paid low compensation after seizing their private land and demolishing their houses in areas used to construct new buildings for Nazarbaev University and other state buildings in Astana.
 
After the protesters refused to meet with Dauylbaev's representatives inside the building and demanded to see him personally, police arrived and the protesters were forcibly taken away.

Belarusian Activist Released After Serving Five Years In Jail

Mikalay Autukhovich leaves prison in Hrodna on April 8.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service
HRODNA, Belarus -- Belarusian businessman and political activist Mikalay Autukhovich has been released after serving five years in jail.

Some 30 people, including Autukhovich's relatives, friends, and journalists, met him at the gates of the prison in the western city of Hrodna on April 8.

Autukhovich told journalists that he still considers his case politically motivated and called the Belarusian government criminal.

Autukhovich was arrested in 2009 and convicted in 2010 on charges of illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.

He was originally charged with preparing terrorist acts against officials in his native town of Vaukavysk. The charge was later dropped.

While in jail, Autukhovich has been repeatedly placed in solitary confinement for going on hunger strikes and other forms of protests against his sentence, including a suicide attempt.

Russians Detained For Holding Up 'Invisible Placards'

Moscow police detain Russians holding "invisible placards" of protest near the Kremlin on April 6.

In Russia, even raising your hands in public can get you detained these days, as protesters in Moscow discovered over the weekend.
 
Police in the capital detained a group of demonstrators near the Kremlin on April 6, several of whom were holding up what they called “invisible placards” calling for the release of seven demonstrators sentenced to prison in the Bolotanaya protest case in February.
 
After some of the protesters holding actual signs were hauled off by police, one of six demonstrators holding her arms up explained to the small crowd on Manezhnaya Square that police could not detain them because their placards were invisible.
It was the latest in a number of protests by Kremlin opponents who have turned to borderline absurdist demonstrations seemingly to dare authorities to arrest them for innocuous and legal public activities.
 
One prominent practitioner of this tactic is opposition activist Roman Dobrokhotov. He was detained along with fellow demonstrators in January 2009 while holding up a blank piece of paper with his mouth taped shut outside the Russian government’s headquarters in central Moscow.
In August of that year, Dobrokhotov was detained with his guitar at a protest on Moscow’s Mayakovsky Square while playing and singing “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles, despite his claim that he had come to the demonstration only to play music.

The “invisible placards” tactic did little to assuage police, who dragged the demonstrators away.
 
In total, 10 protesters were detained on suspicion of staging an unsanctioned demonstration and released later that night, Ekho Moskvy reported. Other Russian news reports put the number of detainees at 12.

-- Carl Schreck

Body Of Ukrainian Nationalist Activist Found In Woods

Ukrainian nationalist activist Vasyl Sergiyenko helped organize protests that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. (file photo)

The body of a nationalist Ukrainian activist and reporter who played a role in protests that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych has been found in a forest outside Kyiv a day after his abduction.
 
In a statement, the Svoboda (Freedom) nationalist party said the body of one of its members Vasyl Sergiyenko bore marks of torture and was hidden under rubbish in the woods near the village of Vygrayev, 120 kilometers southeast of the capital.
 
The statement said Sergiyenko's head was bashed in, his kneecaps mangled, and there were stab wounds near his heart and neck.
 
Sergiyenko helped organize the protests against Yanukovych in February and was a member of one of the nationalist opposition's self-defense groups that periodically clashed with the police.
 
The local prosecutor's office confirmed the discovery of the body.
 
Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax

Iran Rights Lawyer Ignores Intelligence Ministry Summons

Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh speaks on the phone alongside her husband, Reza Khandan, at their house in Tehran in 2013.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent and widely respected human rights lawyer in Iran, has turned a deaf ear to a telephone call in which she was ordered to appear at the Intelligence Ministry on short notice.

There has been no public reaction from Iranian authorities.

Sotoudeh was summoned to Iran's Intelligence Ministry on March 30, according to an account by her husband that was posted on his Facebook page, which Reza Khandan has used to keep his wife's supporters informed about her situation.

Khandan wrote that the summons was delivered during a trip to the province of Khuzestan.

"A few minutes ago, we were shopping in the bazaar of the city of Dezful when the Intelligence Ministry called and summoned Nasrin and our host in an illegal and impolite manner," Khandan wrote on Facebook on March 30. "They were told to present themselves to the Intelligence Ministry within an hour."

A few hours later, he wrote that because the summoning -- from the Dezful office of the Intelligence Ministry -- was done "illegally," via telephone, she decided to ignore it.

Instead, he said, the couple went horseback riding. He later posted a picture of himself and his wife on horseback. 
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In an interview with RFE/RL, Khandan explained more fully why Sotoudeh decided to ignore the call: "Lawyers have always said that summoning via telephone is illegal and no one should abide by those calls," Khandan said. "Summoning may only take place through the judiciary; it should be done via an official written summons."

The reason for the summons is not clear. It followed by just a few days the posting of a speech by Sotoudeh in which she referred to the Islamic republic as a "big prison" and which was shared on social media and news sites.

In the speech, Sotoudeh criticized the house arrest of Iranian opposition figures. "We seem to be free. But our heart is always, always divided between two groups -- those who are under arrest in their owns homes, [Zahra] Rahnavard, [Mir Hossein] Musavi, and [Mehdi] Karrubi, they are prisoners of conscience...[and] those who are serving their terms in prisons in different cities of Iran," she told a cultural gathering. 

Sotoudeh is one of a small number of human rights lawyers who take on sensitive political cases in Iranian courts.

In her speech, Sotoudeh mentioned two colleagues -- Abdol Fatah Soltani and Mohammad Seifzadeh -- who have ended up in jail over their defense of political activists and students. 

It is unclear when Sotoudeh made the speech. A video of her comments was posted online on March 28.
Sotoudeh was among a dozen political prisoners freed in September ahead of a trip by Iranian President Hassan Rohani to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2010 after her conviction on a number of charges, including acting against national security. An appeals court later reduced her sentence to six years. 

Her defense of activists, opposition members, and juvenile offenders on death row and her outspokenness are thought to be the reason for the state pressure she has been facing. 

While in prison, she refused to be silenced. She reportedly launched several hunger strikes to protest her condition and alleged state harassment of her family. 

Sotoudeh and dissident Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi were awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought in 2012.

To many Iranians, Sotoudeh, a mother of two, has become a symbol of resistance against repression in their country.
 
-- Golnaz Esfandiari with contributions by Radio Farda correspondent Hossein Ghavimi

Kazakh Journalist Flees To Ukraine, Fearing Prosecution

Natalya Sadyqova in Kyiv on March 24

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
ASTANA -- A Kazakh journalist says she has fled Kazakhstan with her husband and two young children to avoid prosecution.

Natalya Sadyqova told RFE/RL on March 27 that she and her family were currently in Ukraine.

Sadyqova said investigators in her native city of Aqtobe questioned her last month regarding an article published in the opposition "Respublika" online news portal about corruption among local officials.

Investigators told Sadyqova they suspected she was the author and informed her that former lawmaker Marat Itegulov had filed a libel suit against the author, who was listed as Bakhyt Ilyasova.

Sadyqova insists she had nothing to do with the article.

She said she left Kazakhstan on March 9 after police sources informed her she might be arrested.

A court in Aqtobe issued a warrant for her arrest on March 17.

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.

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