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Aron Atabek in 2012

The worldwide association of writers, PEN International, has called for jailed poets around the world to be released, including prominent Kazakh poet Aron Atabek.

In a statement on March 21, which is marked as World Poetry Day, the London-based PEN International called on its members, supporters, and poetry centers of the world to send appeals to Kazakh authorities demanding Atabek be freed.

Similar calls were made regarding jailed Eritrean poet Amanuel Asrat, Chinese poet Liu Xia, and the Saudi Arabian-born Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh.

Atabek, 63, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2007 after being convicted of helping organize protests that resulted in the death of a police officer.

Atabek has maintained his innocence, saying his imprisonment is politically motivated.

He rejected a 2012 government pardon offer that would have required him to admit guilt.

A leader of the ethnic Lezgin community in Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan has been found dead with numerous stab wounds.

Russian media reports quoted Daghestani law enforcement officials on March 21 as saying that Nazim Gadzhiyev -- the leader of the Lezgin national movement Sadval (Unity) -- was found dead in his apartment in the regional capital, Makhachkala.

Nearly a year ago, on March 24, 2015, an activist with the movement, Ruslan Magomedragimov, was also killed in Daghestan. Nobody has been held responsible for the killing yet.

The Sadval movement was established in 1990 to promote the idea of unifying the Lezgin people living in Daghestan and neighboring Azerbaijan.

Based on reporting by RIA and Regnum

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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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