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Human rights activist Fatima Margieva
The son of a human rights activist has been found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 months in jail in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus reports.

Dmitry Kaloev, 29, is the son of well-known activist and journalist Fatima Margieva. He was arrested in South Ossetia in March 2010 after his friend, Vyacheslav Bichenov, died of a drug overdose. He has been held in detention since then.

Investigators insisted in the trial that concluded on March 9 that Kaloev and Bichenov had used heroin and Kaloev is responsible for his friend's death.

Kaloev pleaded not guilty and said he never used drugs.

Margieva told RFE/RL the case against her son is politically motivated and connected to her professional activities. Margieva has written several articles critical of the de facto government in South Ossetia.

Last year, Margieva was found guilty of possessing illegal weapons, ammuniton, and explosives and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.

Margieva told RFE/RL her son has spent one year in jail already and is due to be released at the end of June.
Opposition supporters rally in Yerevan to demand that the authorities release political prisoners and respect human rights. (file photo)
YEREVAN -- A coalition of nongovernmental organizations in Armenia is calling for the release of all jailed opposition members, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The Partnership for Open Society, which unites about 50 NGOs involved in civic activism, said in an annual report on March 9 that the continued imprisonment of the opposition activists is a major source of political instability in the country.

The group also criticized the government's overall human rights record.

"Tensions between the government, the opposition, and the public will continue as long as the government delays the release of all political prisoners and the restoration of their rights," the report said, referring to about a dozen jailed oppositionist activists.

They were among more than 100 supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian arrested following a disputed presidential election in February 2008. The authorities deny any political motives behind their prosecution.

The NGO coalition also accused the authorities of continuing to restrict freedom of assembly and speech and abetting human rights abuses committed by security agencies in 2010.

In particular, it denounced the government's continuing tight grip on the broadcast media.

The NGO coalition's report is aimed at assessing government actions stemming from Armenia's inclusion in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) program, which offers it the prospect of closer partnership with the EU conditional on political and economic reforms.

The report concludes that Yerevan officials have largely failed to deliver on reform pledges given to the EU.

"It is clear that in terms of political rights, Armenia's citizens are not better protected than they were in 2004 when the European Neighborhood Policy was initiated," one of the reports authors, Boris Navasardian of the Yerevan Press Club, told RFE/RL.

"True, a lot of paperwork has been done," he said. "But what has changed as a result of that in terms of civil rights?"

Navasardian also disagreed with the EU officials' overall satisfaction with Yerevan's ENP-related actions. "They don't seem to have a clear idea of how to work with former Soviet republics," he said.

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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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