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Yasar Bagirsoy says his brother has had his disability pension since the Chornobyl cleanup.
BAKU -- An Azerbaijani opposition member has been remanded in custody for three months on charges of faking his disability and stealing from the state, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Zeynal Bagirzade, who is in the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party's (AXCP) Naxcivan branch, was ordered on December 26 to be held by police in pretrial detention.

Yasar Bagirsoy, Bagirzade's brother and the head of the AXCP's Naxcivan branch, told RFE/RL that Bagirzade was charged with abuse of authority, using false documents, and inflicting great financial damage.

If found guilty of those charges, he could be imprisoned for between one and 12 years.

Bagirsoy said his brother was an invalid who participated in the cleanup of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster and has received a disability pension since shortly after the catastrophe.

"Now they say Zeynal did not ever go to Chornobyl, that he obtained a false document and has been embezzling state resources" because he is not truly disabled, he said.

Bagirsoy said his brother had been active in politics in recent years and aided in establishing the Naxcivan branch of the opposition movement known as the Public Chamber.

"My brother has received this pension for many years. If his documents were false, why have they only noticed now?" he said.

Naxcivan is an Azerbaijani exclave bordered by Iran on the west and Armenia on the east.

Read more in Azeri here
Mikalay Autukhovich (right) in a photo reportedly taken in prison in 2010
MINSK -- Belarusian prison officials say jailed businessman and opposition activist Mikalay Autukhovich slashed his wrists to protest his treatment in prison, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Heorhiy Prakopchyk, an official at labor camp No. 4 in the southwestern town of Ivatsevichy, told Autukhovich's wife, Alena Autukhovich, on December 22 that her husband had cut his wrists but was in "satisfactory" condition.

Prakopchyk did not give the date of the suicide attempt.

Inmates at the labor camp say the incident took place on December 11, after Autukhovich was released from solitary confinement and then told that he would be transferred to another brigade.

Autukhovich reportedly protested that decision and decided to slash his wrists.

The same sources told RFE/RL that Autukhovich has been placed under a "closed regime" (PKT) at the labor camp for a month as punishment for his suicide attempt.

A transfer to PKT means an inmate spends all day and night in a cell either alone or with one or two cellmates. The convict is usually allowed one hour per day to walk outside in a walled square.

It is unclear when Autukhovich began his PKT term.

On December 13, activists of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center in Minsk said they had information about Autukhovich's transfer to PKT and called the transfer "the continuation of pressure imposed on Autukhovich by authorities."

Autukhovich and three co-defendants were convicted in May 2010 on charges of illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. Autukhovich was sentenced to five years and two months in jail.

The four were originally charged with preparing terrorist acts against officials in their hometowns of Vaukavysk, Hrodna, and Minsk. Those charges were later dropped.

Autukhovich and his colleagues say the cases against them are politically motivated.

He currently has no legal representative and his lawyer, Paval Sapelka, was disbarred in March this year after having represented jailed presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau.

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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