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CHISINAU -- A Moldovan human rights defender has condemned a recent visit to Chisinau by a leading American antigay activist and his statements against the homosexual community, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Iulia Marcinschi, a leader of Moldova's Antidiscrimination Coalition, told RFE/RL today that Scott Lively's remarks in Chisinau last week constitute hate speech and should be condemned by the authorities.

During his visit, Lively said ending discrimination against gays would be the first step towards the "homosexualization" of society and would be followed by granting gay people the right to marry and adopt children.

Lively, who made trips to Uganda in 2009 when it was drafting some of the toughest antigay legislation in the world, was invited to Moldova by two local Orthodox Christian organizations, Pro Familia and Moldova Crestina.

Those groups oppose government efforts to pass an antidiscrimination bill required by the European Union as part of an association agreement Chisinau hopes to sign with Brussels.

The antidiscrimination bill contains a "sexual orientation" clause, which has angered conservative groups in Moldova.

The draft bill was approved by the government on February 17 but still needs to be passed by the parliament.

This week, leading members of parliament said they will not consider discussing the bill until the "sexual orientation" reference is removed.

The bill was also condemned by Moldova's Orthodox Church, which has called on parliament to reject it.

Vitalie Marian, vice president of Pro Familia, told RFE/RL today that he completely agreed with Lively's views and that he is pleased with the results of his visit and would invite him again "anytime."

Moldovan authorities have not commented publicly on Lively's trip or his comments.

But human rights activist Marcinschi said the Education Ministry replied to a February 24 letter from a gay rights organization sent before Lively's visit. In it, the ministry promised to prevent him from speaking at schools in the event that he had plans to do that.

Lively's only public appearance in Chisinau was a press conference on February 28 with local antigay activists at the headquarters of the InfoPrim Neo news agency.
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

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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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