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Andrey Sannikau voting on December 19, hours before the public protests began.
MINSK -- Former Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau has marked his 57th birthday in the KGB pretrial detention center in Minsk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Sannikau's relatives say KGB officials refused on March 7 to accept a package with food and gifts for him.

Sannikau is charged with organizing mass unrest on Minsk's Independence Square on December 19. He and several other opposition presidential candidates, along with hundreds of their supporters, were arrested in Belarus on December 19-20 while protesting the results of the presidential election, which they say was rigged.

Incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka was named the runaway winner of the vote, which international election monitors said was flawed.

Two other former presidential candidates -- Sannikau and Mikalay Statkevich -- remain in custody. Another, Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu, is under house arrest and yet another, Ales Mikhalevich, is banned from leaving Minsk.

All have been charged with organizing mass unrest.

Sannikau's wife, Iryna Khalip, has also been charged with organizing mass unrest on December 19-20 in Minsk. She was arrested and jailed together with Sannikau on December 19. Khalip was released from detention and placed under house arrest on January 30.

Sannikau's lawyer, Paval Sapelka, was disbarred on March 3. Two lawyers who had agreed to defend Khalip last month suddenly refused to take up her case. They were later also disbarred by Belarusian officials.

Read more in Belarusian here
BAKU -- Two Azerbaijani activists have been detained by police in Baku, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Sakhavan Soltanli, from the youth wing of the opposition Musavat party, was being held at a police station but was expected to be released after questioning, his brother Qadim told RFE/RL. He added that plainclothes police had been watching the family's home for the past three days.

Rashadat Akhundov
Also taken into custody on March 8 was Rashadat Akhundov, a member of the NIDA Youth organization who earlier participated in opposition protests.

The U.S. Embassy in Baku issued a statement on March 7 expressing concern at the March 4 detention in Ganja of a third youth activist, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, who has allegedly been mistreated while in detention and denied access to a lawyer.

The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry has warned ahead of a virtual Facebook protest planned for March 11 that any unsanctioned protests in Baku or elsewhere will be "resolutely" dispersed.

The Musavat party tried to apply to the Baku municipal council for permission to stage a protest on March 12, but officials refused to accept the application on the grounds that the work day had ended.

The Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (IPA) said on March 8 that it plans to apply for formal permission to hold a protest to demand a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the elimination of "Islamophobia," and the release of senior IPA members who were detained in January.

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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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