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Azimjan Askarov during a visit by his wife to his prison in March
WARSAW -- Dozens of Kyrgyz rights activists and their supporters have held a protest in Warsaw to demand the release of a prominent rights activist jailed in Kyrgyzstan over last year's ethnic violence, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The protest on behalf of Azimjan Askarov was held September 29 in front of the hotel where the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is holding an annual human rights conference.

The protesters wore T-shirts with Askarov's portrait and held placards demanding his release. The activists told RFE/RL that a human rights defender from the Bishkek-based NGO Voice of Freedom, Sardar Bagishbekov, read aloud at the protest a request signed by several Kyrgyz human rights organizations demanding Askarov's immediate release from prison.

Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek from Kyrgyzstan's southern Osh province, is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of organizing ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010, and of involvement in the murder of a policeman during the violence.

Human rights groups in Kyrgyzstan and abroad have criticized Askarov's trial and sentence. In March, the Czech NGO People In Need designated Askarov the recipient of its annual Homo Homini prize, awarded "for dedication to the promotion of human rights, democracy, and nonviolent solutions to political conflicts."

Askarov told RFE/RL in March this year that he was jailed solely because of his professional activities as a human rights activist, which focused on prison conditions and police treatment of detainees.

Read more in Kyrgyz here
Andrey Sannikau in a Minsk courtroom in May
MAHILEU, Belarus -- Jailed former Belarusian presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau has been moved for the third time in just over a week, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

On September 26, after more than a week of uncertainty over his whereabouts, Sannikau's lawyer, Andrey Varvashevich, was able to see him in transit detention center No. 4 in the eastern city of Mahileu.

A duty officer at that detention center told RFE/RL by phone today that Sannikau is no longer being held there.

The officer refused to give any information about Sannikau's current whereabouts. But on September 27, the Mahileu detention center warden, Alyaksandr Lamaza, told journalists that Sannikau would be sent to a labor camp in Babruysk by the end of this week, "according to the papers added to his case."

Officials at the camp in Babruysk were unavailable for comment.

Sannikau was found guilty of organizing mass disorders in Minsk on December 19, 2010, and sentenced in May to five years in jail.

He was originally sent to a maximum-security labor camp in the northern city of Navapolatsak. On September 21, Sannikau's wife, Iryna Khalip, was informed by Navapolatsak labor camp officials that he was in transit as of the previous day to a penitentiary in Babruysk and should arrive there by September 24.

When Khalip arrived on September 26 at the penitentiary in Babruysk to see her husband, officials told her that he was not there, but at the Mahileu detention center.

Khalip told RFE/RL on September 26 that, according to the information she received later from officials, her husband was kept for several days in a detention center in the eastern city of Vitsebsk before being taken to the detention center in Mahileu on September 25.

Khalip said the authorities are intentionally prolonging the process of moving Sannikau from one part of the country to another in order "to intimidate him."

Sannikau's lawyers and relatives say the authorities have never offered any explanation for his transfer to another labor camp situated hundreds of miles away.

Former jail inmates told RFE/RL that the transfer over a period of several days to another jail is a very "tough ordeal," as detainees and convicts are held in tiny temporary cells in "inhumane conditions."

A prisoner's life in transit is misery, much worse than in a labor camp, as there are no sanitary facilities, no newspapers, and no letters, and very often no opportunity to talk to anyone, former inmates told RFE/RL.

Read more in Belarusian here

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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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