Saturday, August 27, 2016


Death At Hands Of Police Sparks Public Anger, Reform Pledge In South Ukraine

Local residents surround the body of Aleksandr Tsukerman in the middle of a dirt road in the southern village of Krivoye Ozero.

Farangis Najibullah

Ukraine's interior minister has vowed there won't be any "whitewash" as authorities investigate the death this week of a 31-year-old man at the hands of a half-dozen policemen with the man's family looking on.

The minister, Arsen Avakov, made the pledge via Facebook after angry residents tried to overturn a police vehicle transporting police officers who were detained over Aleksandr Tsukerman's death in the village of Krivoye Ozero in the southern Mykolaiv Province.

With several of the officers already facing charges, Avakov also promised to “disband the district police department and replace its entire staff.” He said anyone who committed criminal activities would face trial.

SEE VIDEO REPORT by Current Time TV (in Russian)
 

Shouting "Murderers!" and spitting, punching, and demanding justice, hundreds of people had converged on the district prosecutor’s office, where the six officers were being transferred to a detention facility.

Some of the officers in custody were said to have been injured in the attack, despite Ukrainian security forces' efforts to contain the mob.

Shouting "Murderers!" and spitting, punching, and demanding justice, hundreds of people converged on the district prosecutor’s office, where the six officers were being transferred to a detention facility.
Shouting "Murderers!" and spitting, punching, and demanding justice, hundreds of people converged on the district prosecutor’s office, where the six officers were being transferred to a detention facility.

Ukrainian media reports suggested that an unarmed Tsukerman was handcuffed and beaten by police before being shot dead in front of his mother, wife, and young son in his home late on August 23.

The officers were reportedly summoned by Tsukerman's wife during an argument with her husband.

Tsukerman’s mother described the police officers as kicking and beating him before shooting him several times. Tsukerman died at the scene.
 
But the police officers' version of events contends the officers “used force” in self-defense after Tsukerman “came out with a shovel and attacked the policemen, running after them for some 30 to 40 meters.”
 
There was also a related phone call and complaint from a taxi driver directed at Tsukerman the same evening, officials said, possibly involving a robbery.
 
Local reports say at least three of the officers have been charged with murder.
 
Angry Krivoe Ozero residents are calling their action the Second Vradiivka, in a reference to public reactions to the brutal rape and beating of a local woman by police officers in the village of Vradiivka, also in Mykolaiv Province, in 2013. At the time, hundreds of protesters stormed the Vradiivka police headquarters, smashing windows and setting the building on fire after authorities were accused of trying to cover up the policemen’s crime.

Public protests continued until the police officers were given lengthy prison sentences and several high-profile law-enforcement officials were dismissed for mishandling the situation.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on local reports and reporting by RFE/RL’s Current Time

French Court Suspends Ban On Burkinis

Muslim models display burkini swimsuits at a shop in Sydney.

France's highest administrative court has suspended a controversial ban on wearing the full-body burkini swimsuit following a legal challenge.

The Council of State ruled on August 26 that local authorities could only restrict individual liberties if there was a “proven risk” to public order.

The appeal was brought by two groups -- the French Human Rights League and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France -- with the aim of overturning a ban on the Islamic swimwear in the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet.

However, the ruling by the judges in Paris sets a legal precedent for about 30 other municipalities that have similar prohibitions.

Burkinis are designed to cover women's heads, arms, and legs while bathing, in keeping with Islamic standards of modesty.

An uproar over the swimsuits followed a series of recent attacks in France, many of which were claimed by Islamist extremists. 

Based on reporting by dpa and AFP

Moscow Court Prolongs House Arrest Of Ukrainian Library Director

Natalya Sharina, the director of Moscow's Ukrainian Literature Library, at a court hearing late last year.

A court in Moscow has prolonged the house arrest of Natalya Sharina, the director of the Ukrainian Literature Library, who is facing charges of extremism and embezzlement.

The court ruled on August 26 that Sharina's house arrest would be prolonged until October 28.

On August 15, the Moscow prosecutor's office refused to indict Sharina and returned the case to investigators without giving any reasons.

Sharina was detained last October and charged with inciting extremism and ethnic hatred because her library's collection allegedly included books by Ukrainian ultranationalist and author Dmytro Korchynskiy, whose works are banned in Russia.

She was placed under house arrest.

In April, investigators charged Sharina with misallocating library funds, allegedly because she used library funds to pay for her legal defense in another extremism case against her that was dismissed in 2013.

Her lawyer said the authorities had "trumped up" new charges after realizing their initial case against his client was too weak.

Sharina has rejected all the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.

Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS
 

Ukraine Leaders, Protesters Demand Release Of Crimean Tatar Activist

Crimean Tatar activist Ilmi Umerov (file photo)

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 26.08.2016 14:52

RFE/RL

Ukrainian leaders, Human Rights Watch, and protesters in Kyiv called for the release of a Crimean Tatar activist who was forced into a psychiatric hospital in Russia-annexed Crimea.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin compared Ilmi Umerov's detention to the Soviet-era practice of holding dissidents in psychiatric hospitals.

"Punitive psychiatry is a return to the terrible times of the NKVD," Klimkin wrote on Twitter, referring to the secret police under Stalin.

He and other supporters of Umerov started a Twitter hashtag #StopKillingIlmiUmerov.

A group of Crimean Tatar activists and government officials held a protest at Kyiv's Independence Square carrying a banner reading: "Free Ilmi Umerov."

And in a statement on August 26, Human Rights Watch urged the Russia-backed authorities in Crimea to drop the trumped-up charges against Umerov and provide him with necessary medical treatment.

Umerov, the former deputy chairman of Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis, was charged with separatism in May after he made public statements against Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.

Speaking to the AFP news agency by phone from inside the hospital on August 26, Umerov said: "Just the fact of my being here in a psychiatric hospital is one long act of torture."

"I feel...like a free man in a cage."

Umerov, 59, whose relatives and lawyers say he suffers from diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and heart problems, has been in a psychiatric hospital against his will since August 18.

"His life remains in danger," his lawyer Nikolai Polozov told AFP, saying his client was suffering from spikes in blood pressure.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has called the case against Umerov "illegal and politically motivated."

With reporting by AFP
 

Trial Of Kyrgyz Opposition Politicians Adjourned

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

The trial of five members of Kyrgyzstan's opposition People's Parliament has been adjourned.

The Birinchi Mai District court in Bishkek ruled that the trial must be postponed until September 7 due to their lawyers' motion to have the trial open to the public.

The court had earlier ruled to hold the trial behind closed doors.

Bekbolot Talgarbekov, Torobai Kolubaev, Marat Sultanov, Aleksandr Gusev, and Toigonbek Kalmatov are on trial for plotting to overthrow the government.

Authorities claimed that leaders and members of the movement had planned to seize power during a rally in Bishkek in May, which did not take place.

Some of the members were arrested before the planned rally while others were arrested in the following months. 

The group had demanded the resignation of President Almazbek Atambaev, claiming they had the support of Russia. 

The trial is being held behind closed doors.

Kyrgyzstan has seen two governments overthrown, in 2005 and 2010.

With reporting by Akipress and Interfax

Alleged Islamic State Recruiter From Russia Detained In Bishkek

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

Kyrgyz authorities say they have detained a Russian citizen on suspicion of recruiting Kyrgyz nationals to fight for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

Bishkek City Police Department spokesman Oljobai Kazabaev told RFE/RL on August 26 that the suspect was detained after police found a grenade, ammunition, and IS propaganda materials in his apartment in the capital.

The suspect's identity has not been disclosed, although Kazabaev revealed that the man was born in 1973 in Russia's North Caucasus.

Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said earlier this month that some 600 Kyrgyz nationals had joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq in recent years, including more than 100 women.

More than 70 Kyrgyz citizens who joined extremists in the two Middle Eastern countries have been killed, according to the UKMK.
 


Iranian Fans Take To Social Media To Demand Rapper’s Release

Amir Tataloo was detained by plainclothes officers on a Tehran street on August 23. (file photo)

Farangis Najibullah and Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah

Iranian fans have taken to Instagram and other social media to demand the release of Amir Tataloo, a popular and controversial rapper arrested on charges of spreading depravity among youth.
 
“Free Tataloo!” and “He Is Not Guilty!” say dozens of comments posted on the Instagram account of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
 
“Musicians Don’t Belong In Jail,” others wrote.
 
The flamboyant and heavily tattooed 29-year-old star, whose real name is Amir Hossein Maghsoodloo, was detained by plainclothes officers on a Tehran street on August 23.
 
According to Tataloo’s Instagram page, a court prolonged his detention in a ruling the following day. 
 
Tataloo has more than 3.2 million followers on Instagram and 1.25 million on Facebook.

Despite his strong fan base, however, Tataloo remains an underground musician as he has not been approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
 
The lack of a license from the ministry means that Tataloo’s songs cannot be aired on Iran’s official radio and television channels.
 
Iran’s morality police briefly arrested Tataloo in 2013 on charges of cooperating with foreign satellite stations.
 
The singer, who had largely kept his distance from political issues, shocked fans in the summer of 2015 when he recorded a video onboard an Iranian warship with a group of servicemen marching behind him:


 
The music video clip, titled Nuclear Energy, features English-language posters such as Peaceful Nuclear Energy For Everyone, Has Iran Ever Invaded a Country? and Don’t Let the Media Fool You.

"This is our absolute right -- to have an armed Persian Gulf,” Tataloo sings in Farsi in the video, which was released with English subtitles.
 
The clip was released the day before a landmark agreement promising Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program was finalized on July 14, 2015.. The video was widely seen as an effort by the Iranian establishment to use the rapper to get its message out to young people.

On social media, Tataloo has also praised the supreme leader and voiced support for the Islamic hijab for women.

“This kid is innocent. He hasn’t taught us corruption and immorality. He has actually taught us to respect senior leaders of the country, such as yourself,” an Instagram user pleaded with Khamenei.

Despite the pro-regime music video and comments, however, Tataloo has never been granted an official license to perform.
 
Iranian Twitter user @aalpaaydin sarcastically wrote that “the first time when he was arrested he sang the Nuclear Energy, the second time around he’ll become a reciter of the Koran when he’s freed.”

Twitter user @_mrdeer said: “I realized from the Free Tataloo hashtag that the future of the trees in our garden seems to be dark.”

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