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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (front), who took over from his father, attending a ceremony to mark new water supplies to the city of Kurdamir.
The rights group Amnesty International has called for the "immediate and unconditional" release of Azerbaijani opposition politicians, journalists, and human rights activists imprisoned in what it called "a preelection crackdown on dissenting voices."

Amnesty said in a statement on August 8 that at least 14 new prisoners of conscience were rounded up ahead the country's presidential election scheduled for October 9.

Amnesty highlighted the cases of prospective presidential candidate Ilgar Mammadov, journalists Tofig Yagublu and Hilal Mammadov, youth activists Dashgin Melikov and Ilkin Rustamzade, rights activist Bakhtiyar Mammadov, whistle-blower Ilham Amiraslanov, and seven members of the pro-democracy youth group NIDA.

President Ilham Aliyev is running for a third five-year term.

Azerbaijan's opposition has accused Aliyev of concentrating the country's wealth in the hands of his family, and abusing human rights.
Mukhtar Ablyazov (file photo)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the French authorities not to extradite Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive Kazakh former banker and a vocal critic of Kazakhstan's longtime President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

In a statement on August 8, HRW said that in Kazakhstan, Ablyazov would be at "serious risk of ill-treatment and would face a flagrant denial of his fair-trial rights."

It said the French authorities also should not send him to any country that might return him to Kazakhstan.

Ablyazov is wanted in Kazakhstan on embezzlement charges, which he says are politically motivated.

He fled the country in 2009.

He is also sought by Russia and Ukraine on related fraud charges.

He was arrested in southern France on July 31 at Ukraine's request.

Kazakhstan has no extradition agreement with France, but it has bilateral agreements with Russia and Ukraine.

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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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