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A defense attorney said Judge Damir Onolbekov (pictured) is ignoring the rights of those being tried in absentia, including ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev.
BISHKEK -- The trial of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev and 27 of his former associates and family members has been adjourned again after a defense lawyer said the judge should be replaced because the rights of the defendants being tried in absentia are being ignored, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Irina Kamarda said that none of those being tried in absentia -- including the former president and several others -- has ever been questioned and no personal statements regarding the charges against them have been recorded to be considered by a court.

She said that therefore "the trial cannot be considered legal" and judge Damir Onolbekov should be replaced.

After Kamarda's statement, the trial was adjourned until an unspecified date.

The trial of Bakiev and 27 other former top Kyrgyz officials had resumed on March 18 after a four-month break.

Bakiev and his former associates are accused of having fired upon, or given the command to open fire on, unarmed protesters in Bishkek during the protests.

Many of the defendants are jailed or under house arrest, while Bakiev and several other defendants are being tried in absentia. Bakiev lives in Belarus at the invitation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Spectators react at the opening of a trial at a Bishkek sports arena of ex-President Bakiev and 27 others on November 17.
The trial started in November in the Sports Palace in Bishkek with hundreds of spectators but was adjourned several times following rowdy scenes in which some relatives of the victims of the uprising threatened the defendants, their lawyers, and family members.

The trial is being conducted by the Bishkek garrison's military court at the Department for Penitentiary System Control. Hundreds of police are present at the trial to prevent disturbances.

Read more in Kyrgyz here
Journalist Seymur Haziyev
Europe's main security and rights body has condemned a recent assault on an Azerbaijani newspaper columnist and called on the government in Baku to curtail violence against journalists.

Dunja Mijatovic, the media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), described the weekend attack on Seymur Haziyev as "inadmissible."

Seymur Haziyev, a youth activist and columnist for the opposition "Azadliq" newspaper, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that he was abducted in a village near Baku as he was returning home from work just after midnight on March 26.

Haziyev linked the assault to articles he has written in "Azadliq" that are critical of the administration, and to his ties with youth activists. He said he has been threatened and beaten several times in recent years because of his articles criticizing President Ilham Aliyev's domestic and foreign policies.

In her statement, Mijatovic urged public condemnation of such attacks and prosecution by Azerbaijani authorities of those responsible.

"This new attack on an independent media outlet is inadmissible and the Azerbaijani authorities must condemn it publicly. They must also do their utmost so that the perpetrators and masterminds of this and previous cases of violence against journalists -- including the 2005 murder of newspaper editor Elmar Huseynov -- are brought to justice."

Huseynov, editor in chief of the now-defunct opposition magazine "Monitor," was gunned down outside his apartment in March 2005. Rights groups have linked his killing, which remains unsolved, to his journalistic activities.

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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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