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Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian waves a "victory" sign as he is taken to a court in Yerevan in July 2009.
State prosecutors have demanded that opposition leader and newspaper editor Nikol Pashinian be sentenced to eight years in prison for his alleged role in deadly street violence that followed the February 2008 presidential election, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The sentence would disqualify Pashinian from a general amnesty that was declared by the Armenian authorities in June.

It would also effectively invalidate his chances of victory in a January 10 by-election to the National Assembly.

The editor in chief of the "Haykakan Zhamanak" newspaper was registered as a candidate for the election earlier this month despite being under arrest and on trial.

The lengthy jail term was demanded on December 22 after Mnatsakan Martirosian, the presiding judge, declared an end to the cross-examination of the defendant and witnesses and proceeded to the final phase of the trial.

The final indictment was then read by prosecutors.

Koryun Piloyan, another prosecutor, told RFE/RL that their final speech was essentially drawn up "several days ago."

Defense lawyers, meanwhile, presented additional evidence and video materials relating to the March 2008 clashes between opposition protesters and security forces.
Kazakh students meet with an Islamic spiritual representatives in Aktobe (file photo)
A group of Kazakh parliament members is urging Education Minister Zhanseit Tuymebaev to reverse a ban on Islamic head scarves among high-school and university students, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Lawmaker Rozakul Khalmuradov, told a session of parliament that the Education and Science Ministry had ordered all schools and universities to ban hijabs and other religious clothing on October 26, before Tuymebaev headed the ministry.

Rozakulov called the ban unconstitutional because it restricts religious freedom.

An increasing number of students and young teachers who wear hijabs at schools in Kazakhstan complain that they are being urged to shed the head scarves.

Human rights activists have said that such pressure violates students' rights.

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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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