Monday, March 02, 2015

Belarusian Activist's Prison Term Extended Days Before Release

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

Jailed Belarusian activist Mikalay Dzyadok's prison term has been extended by another year just four days before his planned release.

Dzyadok's trial was held inside the prison in the eastern city of Mahileu, where Dzyadok, an anarchist, is being held.

Dzyadok's wife, Valeriya Khotsina told RFE/RL that Judge Ihar Shvedau on February 26 found the activist guilty of violating prison rules and extended his prison term by one year. 

Dzyadok's 4 1/2 year prison term on a hooliganism conviction was due to end on March 3.

According to Khotsina, her husband again said in his testimony at the trial that he was not guilty and that "the system based on lies will collapse in the end."

New York-based Human Rights Watch has recognized Dzyadok as a political prisoner.

Almaty Court Upholds Kazakh Journal Closure

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ALMATY, Kazakhstan --  A court in Kazakhstan has rejected journalist Gulzhan Erghalieva's challenge against closure of her magazine, upholding a ruling ordering Adam Bol (Be a Human) to shut down.

Erghalieva said after the Almaty City Court's decision was pronounced on February 26 that she has not yet decided whether she will appeal.

She said she had started a new media project, called Adam (Human), which she plans to launch on March 13. 

In December, an Almaty court ordered Adam Bol to be closed for "propagating war."

That ruling came weeks after the magazine published an interview with opposition activist Aidos Sadyqov, who lives in exile in Ukraine.

In the interview, Sadyqov lambasted Russia for its involvement in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Erghalieva, whose magazine published reports on alleged corruption and rights abuses by officials, has been under pressure from the authorities for years.

Pussy Riot Takes Bid For Prisoners' Group To European Court


Two members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot have filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights over Russia's refusal to register their prisoners' rights group.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina told the Russian daily Vedomosti they believe the Justice Ministry's refusal to register their group, Zona Prava (Law Zone), was illegal and contradicted guarantees of free assembly and association. 

The report was published by Vedomosti on February 26 and confirmed by a website affiliated with Zona Prava,

In October, a court in Moscow ruled that Justice Ministry refusal to register Zona Prava was legal. 

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were convicted of hooliganism for bursting into Russia' main cathedral in 2012 and sang a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin.

They were close to the end of their two-year prison sentences when they were freed in December 2013, under an amnesty they dismissed as a propaganda stunt ahead of the Sochi Olympics. 

Russian City Bans Gay Rally On Eve Of Event

Officials in the northwestern Russian city of Arkhangelsk have banned a previously approved gay-rights rally.

The city's mayor's office told activists on February 24 that the previous decision to allow the rally on February 25 was reversed because officials did not know if the activists had agreed on the location of the rally.

Arkhangelsk authorities originally agreed to the gay-rights activists' request for the rally, but rejected their call for holding it at city hall, instead offering a place in a remote part of the city.

A group of some 20 activists had planned to raise issues related to the controversial federal law that bans the dissemination of materials promoting homosexuality among minors.

The rally's rejection is the second in recent days.

On February 20, Arkhangelsk officials banned a gay pride parade in the city on February 22 and banned four other public pro-gay events.

Based on reporting by and Novaya Gazeta

Jailed Belarusian Activist Could Have Term Extended

Mikalay Dzyadok

RFE/RL's Belarus Service

Jailed Belarusian activist Mikalay Dzyadok faces a new trial, starting on February 25, that could keep him behind bars for another year just as he was due for release.

The trial was to be held inside the prison in the eastern city of Mahileu where Dzyadok, an anarchist, is being held.

Dzyadok's 4 1/2 year prison term on a hooliganism conviction ends on March 3, but he has been charged violating prison rules and could have his term extended by up to one year if found guilty.

Dzyadok says he is innocent.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has recognized Dzyadok as a political prisoner.

With reporting by

U.S. Names First Global Envoy For Gay Rights

The United States has named its first international envoy for gay rights.

The State Department said Randy Berry will be its special envoy to promote human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

Berry is a veteran diplomat currently serving as consul general at the U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam. 

He has also served at U.S. posts in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda, and South Africa, and speaks Spanish and Arabic.

The State Department said earlier it would appoint an openly gay foreign service officer to the post.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Berry will help the Obama administration put gay rights at the core of its human rights efforts globally.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Jailed Azerbaijani Journalist Ismayilova Fined In Libel Case

Khadija İsmayilova

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and RFE/RL contributor who faces an array of charges she says are politically motivated, has been convicted of libel and fined 2,500 manats ($3,180).

Ismayilova's lawyer, Elton Quliyev, told RFE/RL that a Baku court judge issued the ruling on February 23 at the pretrial detention center where Ismayilova has been held since December 5.

Ismayilova was found guilty of publicly calling former opposition activist Elman Hasanov an agent of the national security ministry.

She denies having made such an allegation. 

Lawyer Quliyev vowed an appeal.

Ismayilova, who has reported extensively on the financial dealings of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and members of his family, was initially detained on what authorities described as suspicion of inciting an attempted suicide.

She has since been hit with new charges including embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion, and abuse of power, and faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Ismayilova denies any wrongdoing.

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