Friday, November 28, 2014

RFE/RL Reporter Briefly Detained, Questioned By Police In Azerbaijan

RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service reporter Turkhan Karimov (file photo)

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

BAKU -- An RFE/RL correspondent has been briefly detained and questioned by police in Baku, and warned "not to be critical of the government."

Turkhan Karimov says he was stopped near his home on the morning of November 28 by plainclothes police officers who forced him into a vehicle and took him to in Baku's Narimanov district police office.

Karimov was released after several hours of questioning.

He says he was asked about his work and salary, as well as about Khadija Ismayilova, a prominent journalist and government critic.

Karimov says the district police chief warned him to be "careful about what he was doing" and told him "all citizens should support the government." 

With some 80,000 followers on Facebook, Karimov is a well-known journalist in Azerbaijan.

The government in Baku has long been criticized for its crackdowns on journalists, human right activists, and political opponents.

Belarusian Activist Jailed After Distributing Leaflets

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

NAVAPOLATSAK, Belarus -- Belarusian opposition activist Andrey Haydukou has been sentenced to 10 days in jail in his native town of Navapolatsak in the country's north.

Haydukou, a founder of the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democratic Party, was sentenced on November 25 for "illegal" distribution of print materials.

He was detained on November 21 after distributing leaflets with data about political prisoners in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Haydukou was released from jail in May after serving an 18-month term after for attempting to contact a foreign intelligence service.

Haydukou denied guilt and said his imprisonment was politically motivated.

In 2010-11, Haydukou served as an aide to opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau, who received political asylum in Europe in 2012 after spending 16 months in jail following a crackdown on protests over the disputed re-election of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Lukashenka has tolerated little dissent during his 20 years as president.


Russian LGBT Activist Asks For Asylum In Germany

RFE/RL's Russian Service

A Russian civil and gay rights activist, Kirill Kalugin, has applied for political asylum in Germany.

Kalugin, a vocal Kremlin critic, told RFE/RL on November 26 that he had left Russia on November 16 and officially asked for political asylum in Germany.

Kalugin said that he does not want "to risk his destiny because of the shortsightedness of the 84 percent of the Russian population," who support President Vladimir Putin.

Kalugin's statement about his intention to get asylum in Germany comes a day after media reports in Russia said another lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activist from St. Petersburg, Artur Akhmetgaliyev, had applied for political asylum in Germany along with his partner.

In September, another activist from St. Petersburg, Natalya Tsymbalova, a founder of the group Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality, lodged a formal request for political asylum in Spain.



UN Experts Urge Kyrgyz Parliament To Withdraw Anti-Gay Bill


GENEVA -- A group of United Nations human rights experts has urged Kyrgyz Parliament to withdraw a bill that suggests legal prosecution for what it calls "gay propaganda."

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Kyrgyz lawmakers to fight "against all forms of violence and discrimination," instead of "adopting legislation which de facto condemns lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities to silence."

In a November 26 statement, it warns that "if passed, the law would run afoul of Kyrgyzstan's human rights obligations and commitments."  

The bill passed in a first reading in parliament in October, and must be voted on twice more before going to the president for signature.

It calls for "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to be punished by up to one year in jail and says journalists found guilty of "propagating" homosexual relations will be held accountable.

The bill also bans the creation of groups that defend the gays' rights.


U.S. Senators Urge Uzbek President To Release Prisoners


A group of U.S. Senators has urged Uzbek President Islam Karimov to release five prisoners whose detention "appears to be politically motivated."

In a November 24 letter to Karimov, Democratic Senators Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer, Bob Casey,  Robert Menendez, Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal, and  Benjamin Cardin, and Republican Mark Kirk, expressed their appreciation of the U.S.-Uzbek cooperation on issues related to Afghanistan.

But they stressed that the ongoing detention of the five Uzbeks, all human rights advocates or journalists, remains "an impediment to further cooperation between our two countries."

The senators said Akzam Turgunov, Dilmurod Saidov, Salijon Abdurakhmanov, Muhammad Bekjanov, and Bobomurod Razzokov "have been characterized as prisoners of conscience" by international organizations.

They said all five are reportedly suffering from poor health brought on by years of incarceration and "a lack of adequate medical attention."

The senators called on Karimov to immediately release the five men "on humanitarian grounds," adding that this "would help to further relations between our countries."


Azerbaijani Rights Lawyer Jailed, Opposition Activist Missing

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

BAKU -- A human rights lawyer activist Elcin Namazov has been sentenced to 15 days in jail in Azerbaijan.

Namazov's brother, Akram, told RFE/RL on November 26 that the activist had been found guilty of disobeying police and sentenced on November 25.

He said he fears his brother, whose office was searched on November 25 by police who confiscated documents, could face further charges.

Meanwhile, representatives of Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party told RFE/RL that a party activist, Asif Yusifli, went missing on November 25.

Colleagues fear that he might have been detained by police.

Azerbaijan's Interior Ministry declined to comment on Yusifli's situation.

Western states and rights groups have repeatedly accused President Ilham Aliyev's government of stifling dissent and restricting basic freedoms in the oil-producing Caspian Sea state.

Independent Journalist Escapes Russia, Seeks Asylum In U.S.


The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.

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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