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CHITA, Russia -- A Russian man who was tortured by police in 2009 has been awarded the equivalent of $12,500 in compensation by a court in the eastern city of Chita, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Last summer, three local policemen were found guilty of torturing Vitaly Rubtsov in 2009.

Investigators said in court that police took Rubtsov into the forest, handcuffed him, and put a gas mask over his face to deprive him of air in an effort to coerce him into confessing that he had stolen cars.

According to the court decision on May 5, the convicted policemen and the local government must each pay half of the compensation.

Read more in Russian here
Belarusian opposition activist Yaraslau Bernikovich
HLYBOKAYE, Belarus -- An opposition activist in eastern Belarus has been fined 700,000 Belarusian rubles (about $230) because, among other things, his approved protest lasted too long, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The Hlybokaye city council granted Yaraslau Bernikovich permission to hold a rally on March 19 in support of jailed opposition activists.

But Bernikovich was summoned to appear in court on May 5 after the town's mayor, Aleh Morkhat, claimed he violated the law on mass gatherings.

Bernikovich was found guilty on three separate charges. The first was that some protesters used slogans that were not included in the original application for the gathering.

The second conviction was because activists erected a tent in front of the House of Culture in Hlybokaye, which the authorities said is against the law.

Bernikovich said the activists set up the tent because it was snowing and they needed shelter.

The third charge against Bernikovich was that the protest lasted 10 minutes longer than was scheduled.

Bernikovich said at the trial that Mikhail Charapkouski, an employee of the municipal council's ideology department, and the town administration's lawyer, were at the demonstration the entire time but did not raise any objections to anything.

Bernikovich told RFE/RL on May 5 that the judge did not take any of his statements into account.

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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