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A Muslim girl displays two French flags and a headband that reads "Fraternity" in Paris (file photo)
Muslims in Europe face "alarming" levels of discrimination, and urgent action is needed to tackle the problem, a new report says.

The Open Society Institute, a private foundation set up by financier George Soros, said many Muslims experienced discrimination as well as social and economic disadvantages.

But it said most Muslims still wanted to live in communities that are ethnically and religiously mixed, rather than segregated areas.

The institute said it conducted some 2,000 interviews in 11 cities across Europe, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and London, for the survey.

"The alarming part that we highlighted was just the report that we had from our research on the levels of religious discrimination," Tufyal Choudhury, the lead author of the overview report, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service. "Around half the respondents that we traced across the 11 cities who were Muslims said they had experienced some form of religious discrimination in the previous 12 months, and then they were asked to think about whether discrimination had increased over the past five years -- the majority both Muslims and non-Muslims that we spoke to felt that religious discrimination had increased over the past five years. I think that was the alarming part."

Choudhury said Muslims also often faced discrimination on grounds of ethnicity.

"It shows that over the past five years, particularly with issues like security, discrimination and prejudice toward Muslims has increased. That's what people have been reporting to us," he said.

The OSI estimates between 15 million and 20 million Muslims live in the European Union.
Andrey Bandarenka
A Minsk city court ruled today that the case of a jailed opposition activist be sent back and reviewed in a lower court, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Andrey Bandarenka, a member of the opposition United Civil Party (AGP), was found guilty of stealing property from his own company and sentenced to seven years in jail by Minsk's Pershamaysky District Court in October.

Human rights activists and AGP activists say the case against him is politically motivated.

The city court ruled today that not all the circumstances of his case were taken into consideration during the trial and therefore ruled to return the case to the district court for revision.

Bandarenka will stay in the detention center while his case is revised.

Bandarenka's lawyer, Zmitser Laeuski, told RFE/RL that the case could be reviewed in January.

AGP member Alyaksandr Dabravolsky told RFE/RL that the court's decision is a result of broad public awareness of Bandarenka's case,
attention to which was raised by party activists.

He added that the "political factor" played a huge role in the decision by the judge to review the case, which is highly unusual in a court case in Belarus involving an opposition activist.

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"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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