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Valery Surganov in court on November 7
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh journalist has received an 18-month "restricted freedom" sentence after being found guilty of libel by an Almaty court, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Valery Surganov was also ordered by the court to pay a 100,000-tenge ($665) fine, publicly apologize to "Kazakh society," and issue a "corrected version" of his article.

Under his "restricted freedom" sentence, Surganov is forbidden from leaving Almaty and is restricted from entering public places.

Surganov was sued by financial police in the northern Pavlodar Oblast for the second part of his article "The Knights of the Financial Police," which was issued on the opposition website this summer.

The investigative article alleged malfeasance by financial police in Astana. A criminal case against Surganov was launched on July 20 after the deputy chief of the Pavlodar Oblast financial police, Sanzhar Aliev, sued him for libel.

Some media in Kazakhstan alleged that Aliev's suit against Surganov was caused by a power struggle between the Committee for National Security (KNB) and the financial police.

But chief editor Gulzhan Ergalieva told RFE/RL those allegations "are absolutely baseless."

Surganov pleaded not guilty. He said in court on November 7 he planned to appeal the verdict.
Ryhor Hryk
An activist in central Belarus has filed a lawsuit against municipal authorities accusing them of illegally banning a public gathering.
Ryhor Hryk told RFE/RL he thinks the judicial system should be independent. He said he hopes the municipal officials in the town of Baranavichy who are responsible for the "illegal ban" will be punished.
Hryk planned to hold a public gathering on October 23 under the slogan: "For a Life Without Lies and Fraud!" The protest was expected to mobilize activists who would challenge "price hikes and the impoverishment of ordinary citizens."
Baranavichy city authorities banned the gathering on the grounds that the chosen slogan "does not correspond to the norms and standards outlined in the Law on Public Gatherings of the Republic of Belarus."
Hryk told RFE/RL he decided to sue the authorities because his right to hold public gatherings on topical issues was violated. He said the slogan "For a Life Without Lies and Fraud!" is completely legal because it focuses on issues of vital concern to society.

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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