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Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Berlin, November 25, 2015

WASHINGTON -- The eldest daughter of slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been honored by the U.S. State Department for championing "democracy, education, and freedom of information" in her homeland.

Zhanna Nemtsova was among 14 recipients of the State Department's International Women of Courage Award presented by Secretary of State John Kerry at a March 29 ceremony in Washington.

Kerry praised Nemtsova for speaking out against Russia's "officially sanctioned propaganda that spreads lies" and "for unwavering courage and tireless work to expose corruption and defend the legal rights of Russian citizens."

Nemtsova, 32, left Russia several months after her father was shot dead near the Kremlin on February 27, 2015, saying she had received death threats as she pressed for further investigation into the slaying.

In July, she announced she was leaving her job as a journalist at the Russian news outlet RBK in order to join Deutsche Welle's Bonn office as a reporter in their Russian department.

Russia's top investigative body in December brought final murder charges against four men for Nemtsov's murder and accused a low-level figure from the southern Chechnya region of masterminding the killing, drawing accusations of a cover-up.

Nemtsova has rejected investigators' conclusions, accusing them of not being "interested in fully solving" the case.

Nemtsov's relatives and lawyers have expressed skepticism about the probe, insisting the killing must have been ordered by high-ranking Russian officials.
People with ties to the Kremlin's strongman leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, have been implicated in the killing. While Kadyrov denies any involvement, he has described one of the accused, Chechen police official Zaur Dadayev, as "a true patriot."

John Tefft, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, congratulated Nemtsova on her award in a March 29 statement.

Tefft cited her "courageous activism demanding a thorough and transparent investigation into the murder of her father" and "her outspoken determination to expose the dangerous and irresponsible use of propaganda."

In August, Nemtsova received the $1.1 million Lech Walesa Solidarity Prize, established by Poland's Foreign Ministry, from then Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and from Walesa, a former Polish president who chairs the prize committee.

The State Department established the annual International Women Of Courage Award in 2007 to honor "women around the globe who have exemplified exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women's equality, and social progress, often at great personal risk."

Elena Milashina, a Russian human rights activist and investigative journalist with the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, received the award in 2013.

Intigam Aliyev upon being released.

International organizations have welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan to release jailed human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev after nearly a year in prison.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement on March 29 that Aliyev's release was "an important and positive step for human rights in Azerbaijan, for Mr. Aliyev’s own sake and for the sake of the many persons whom he continues to defend."

Aliyev was freed on March 28 after the Supreme Court commuted a 7 1/2-year prison sentence against Aliyev, paving the way for his release.

Amnesty International said on March 29 that Aliyev's "release is welcome, but he must now be fully cleared of all charges and allowed to resume his work. Without this, there will be no justice for this resolute defender of human rights in Azerbaijan.”

'Politically Motivated'

Aliyev, 53, was arrested in August 2014 and convicted of illegal business activity, tax evasion, abuse of authority, and other charges in April 2015.

Aliyev has always denied the charges as politically motivated and his lawyers have been demanding that the criminal case against him be fully dismissed.

He founded the Legal Education Society in 1998 to provide legal assistance to marginalized groups, and has represented many Azerbaijani activists and human rights defenders.

Aliyev was announced the winner of the International Bar Association's Human Rights Award in 2015.

Earlier, the U.S. State Department and the European Union also welcomed Aliyev's release.

The State Department urged the government in Baku "to release other individuals who have been incarcerated for exercising their fundamental freedoms."

Azerbaijan is widely criticized by Western governments and organizations for its crackdown on dissent and imprisonment of activists and government opponents.

On March 17, President Ilham Aliyev pardoned 148 prisoners, including several human rights defenders and opposition activists and politicians.

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