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Former Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security agent Aldayar Ismankulov (behind glass) with lawyer Svetlana Murzina in court on June 6
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The trial of three people accused of the murder of an independent Kyrgyz journalist has opened in the Kazakh city of Almaty, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Gennady Pavlyuk, 51, was thrown from the sixth floor of an Almaty building in December 2009 with his arms and legs bound. He died in a hospital six days later.

At the June 6 hearing in Almaty, one of the defendants, former Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security agent Aldayar Ismankulov, pleaded not guilty and said the whole case is politically motivated.

Ismankulov said he was framed by political groups in Kyrgyzstan who want to reap political dividends from Pavlyuk's death. He added that Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of Kyrgyzstan's Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, had an interest in framing him.

Tekebaev, in a telephone interview with RFE/RL, rejected Ismankulov's accusation as groundless. He said Pavlyuk was assassinated by individuals acting on orders from the Kyrgyz leadership that was toppled in April 2010.

Two other defendants, Kazakhs Almaz Igilikov and Shalqar Orazalin, were expected to testify on June 7.

A Pavlyuk relative declined to comment to RFE/RL on the case, saying he feared for his safety.

Pavlyuk's relatives and colleagues in Kyrgyzstan have alleged that his murder was politically motivated. But Kazakh investigators claim the killing was an ordinary crime and had nothing to do with politics.

Pavlyuk, an ethnic Russian, was known in Kyrgyzstan under the pseudonym Rustam Ibragimbek. He founded the "White Steamer" newspaper and website. He also wrote for the newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" (Evening Bishkek) and the Russian weekly "Argumenty i fakty."

Read more in Kazakh here
Kazakh oil workers picket in Aqtau on June 2.
AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- Hundreds of striking Kazakh oil workers have gathered in the western city of Aqtau to support 30 colleagues on trial for taking part in an "unsanctioned mass gathering," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Mukhtar Umbetov, head of the local trade union alliance, told RFE/RL that 37 of the hundreds of striking oil workers from the Qarazhanbasmunai Oil Company were arrested in Aqtau on June 5 when police forcibly dispersed demonstrators. Seven of the detainees were released later that day.

The trial of the remaining 30 began on June 6.

Two of the protesters slashed their stomachs during the June 5 standoff with police and have since been hospitalized.

The Prosecutor-General's Office announced that the police action in Aqtau was legal.

The march was called to express worker dissatisfaction with the results of their meeting with regional governor Qyrymbek Kosherbaev on June 3.

They also demanded the rehiring of all workers fired for participating in the strike and the immediate release of jailed union activist Natalya Sokolova, who had provided them with legal assistance.

Sokolova was found guilty on May 24 of "organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering" in front of police headquarters in Aqtau on May 21 and sentenced to eight days in jail.

Her sentence was to have ended on June 1, but local authorities have not released her and say she has since been charged with "igniting social hatred."

Read more in Kazakh 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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