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Gulzhan Ergalieva
The chief editor of Kazakhstan's leading opposition newspaper, "Svoboda Slova" (Freedom of Speech), has resigned.

Gulzhan Ergalieva told RFE/RL today her resignation was motivated by the current campaign for a referendum to prolong Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's term in office until 2020.

She said she has found a new chief editor, Almaty-based journalist Yevgeny Rakhimzhanov, and given up her ownership rights to the paper.

Ergalieva, 59, founded the newspaper in 2005 and has served as its chief editor since then.

"My resignation is the only way to save the newspaper and to ensure the safety of journalists working for 'Svoboda Slova,'" said Ergalieva, one of Kazakhstan's most prominent opposition journalists.

In 2001, a group of masked men broke into her Almaty apartment, beat and tied her up before torturing her husband in front of her for several hours, leaving him handicapped. The attackers were never found.

Ergalieva and her colleagues say the attack was organized by officials in retaliation for her critical articles about the country's political, social, and economic situation.

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-- RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
Milana Mikhalevich, wife of Ales Mikhalevich (file photo)
Belarusian police have blocked the wife of a senior member of the Belarusian opposition from traveling to Europe.

Milana Mikhalevich said security personnel in the central province of Baranovich halted her in the early morning hours as she was en route to Poland for a conference on the situation in Belarus.

She is the wife of Ales Mikhalevich, an opposition politician and presidential candidate in jail on charges of inciting riots during a December 19 protest over the election, which officials say was won handily by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Police detained Mikhalevich for at least two hours before handing her a court order banning her travel abroad pending the outcome of her husband's trial.

Belarusian police are believed to be holding 29 detainees, including Ales Mikhalevich, pending court hearings on charges against them following the December post-election protest.

compiled from agency reports

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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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