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A few thousand protesters attended the Baku demonstration.
BAKU -- Several thousand supporters of the political opposition in Azerbaijan have staged a rally in Baku to demand freedom for political prisoners and the resignation of President Ilham Aliyev.

Opposition groups at the rally included the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Musavat (Equality), and the People's Party.

Members of several nongovernmental organizations and youth groups in Azerbaijan also attended, chanting for Aliyev's resignation and "Eurovision without political prisoners" -- a reference to the Eurovision Song Contest that Azerbaijan is due to host in May.

It was the second sanctioned demonstration in Baku this year after similar protests last year were subjected to a violent government crackdown.

WATCH: Protesters rally in Baku
Azerbaijani Rally Demands Aliyev's Resignation
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Jailed Belarusian rights activist Ales Byalyatski
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the authorities in Belarus to begin a dialogue with the political opposition and "to unconditionally release all remaining prisoners who are serving sentences for exercising their fundamental human rights."

In a statement issued on April 20, the OHCHR welcomed the April 14-15 releases of political activists Andrey Sannikau and Dzmitry Bandarenka. The two were granted presidential pardons.

The OHCHR called for the immediate release of other jailed rights activists, including human rights defender Ales Byalyatski and opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka.

On April 19, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka postponed an annual address to the nation and ordered officials to remove references to "excessively tough response measures" that could be taken in the face of heightened tensions with the European Union over his rights record.

With reporting by Reuters

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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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