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The independent Kazakh publications "Respublika," "Vzglyad," and "Svoboda slova" have officially protested the government's seizure of their newspapers last week, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The newspapers filed complaints with the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Supreme Court in Almaty today.

They are protesting a decision by Kazakh officials on February 1 to impound the editions of five opposition and independent newspapers because they contained allegations by former Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov of serious corruption by Timur Kulibaev, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law.

Ablyazov, who left Kazakhstan for London last year after his BTA bank was taken over by the government, alleged in statements printed by the newspapers that Kulibaev illegally obtained tens of millions of dollars in a deal with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation several years ago.

Ablyazov announced today on websites that he has sent documents to Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General's Office, parliament members, and political parties urging them to initiate investigations into his claims about Kulibaev.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's media-freedom representative, Miklos Haraszti, criticized today what he called the "misuse" of libel laws to muzzle the press in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Haraszti specifically mentioned the confiscation of the five newspapers last week.
Memorial's Aleksandr Cherkasov said the three were collecting information on missing persons.
Chechen officials have released three Russian human rights activists after detaining them for 15 hours, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Aleksandr Cherkasov of the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center told RFE/RL that the activists had intended to collect information about missing people in Chechnya and that a resident of the town of Shali had specific information about a missing person.

Activists Dmitry Yegoshin of the nongovernmental organization Man and Law from the town of Yoshkar-Ola; Roman Veretennikov of the group Mothers to Protect the Detained, Accused, and Convicted in Krasnodar; and Vladislav Sadykov of the Bashkortostan-based Committee against Torture, were detained on February 7 in Shali.

Cherkasov said neither the reason for their detention nor their release were documented or explained.

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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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