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Jailed ethnic Uzbek rights activist Azimjan Askarov
BAZAR-KORGON, Kyrgyzstan -- Dozens of protesters have held a rally in southern Kyrgyzstan today to demand that a prominent Uzbek rights activist remain in jail, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The protesters blocked the Bishkek-Osh highway for several hours on November 28, saying that Azimjan Askarov's verdict should not be changed.

The protesters later left the highway after Jalal-Abad Oblast Deputy Governor Kadyrbek Jakypov met with them, RFE/RL reported.

Askarov is serving a life sentence after being convicted in September last year of organizing ethnic clashes and of involvement in the murder of a policeman during the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 in which more than 400 people were killed and hundreds wounded.

Human rights groups in Kyrgyzstan and abroad have criticized the trial and long sentence.

Kyrgyz Supreme Court spokesman Baktybek Rysaliev told RFE/RL that the court is scheduled to resume hearings into Askarov's appeal on November 29.

Askarov is the head of the local human rights group Vozdukh (Air), and his work over many years has focused on prison conditions and the police's treatment of detainees.

He had reportedly been documenting the killings and arson attacks in southern Kyrgyzstan in June last year that mainly affected ethnic Uzbeks.

Askarov says his case is politically motivated. He denies any involvement in the crimes he has been convicted of.

The Prague-based NGO People in Need awarded its annual Homo Homini prize to Askarov in March, saying he had continued his rights activism in the face of threats, detention, imprisonment, and physical abuse.

Read more in Kyrgyz here
Members of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov (left), Valery Borshchyov (second left) Kirill Kabanov (third left), at a news conference concerning the investigation into Sergei Magnitsky's death.
MOSCOW -- Human rights activists say a whistle-blowing attorney for a financial services company in Russia may have been beaten by prison guards before he died two years ago, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Sergei Magnitsky, 37, was an attorney for Hermitage Capital Management who died in pretrial detention near Moscow in November 2009.

Officials said he died of heart failure, but rights activists say he died after being beaten and because he was denied treatment for a medical condition.

Hermitage Capital presented its report, "The Torture and Killing of Sergey Magnitsky: State Organs Conceal the Truth," to the Russian presidential Human Rights Council on November 28.

Council member Valery Borshchyov told RFE/RL that rights activists have documents, which he said "confirm" that Magnitsky was beaten by jail guards. He also said that the ambulance personnel who arrived at the detention center found that Magnitsky had died one hour before the time shown by prison officials.

Borshchyov added that the ambulance personnel found Magnitsky not in the penitentiary's medical unit but on the floor of his cell with handcuffs lying nearby.

Hermitage Capital's chief executive, William Browder, told RFE/RL last month that the Moscow Public Oversight Commission established to monitor the investigation into Magnitsky's death managed to obtain documents proving Magnitsky was severely beaten by eight guards before he died.

Magnitsky was arrested and charged with tax evasion in November 2008. The charges were initiated by the same officials against whom Magnitsky had testified one month earlier, accusing them of embezzling some $230 million.

After Magnitsky's death, the Moscow Public Oversight Commission and the president's Human Rights Council concluded he had been wrongfully arrested.

Read more in Russian here and 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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