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Tolekan Ismailova

BISHKEK -- A prominent Kyrgyz rights defender who has sued President Almazbek Atambaev says she's been called in for questioning by the State Committee for National Security (UKMK).

Tolekan Ismailova, the director of the Bishkek-based Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan (One World-Kyrgyzstan) rights group, told RFE/RL on June 1 that she refused to comply with the UKMK request, saying it was invalid without an official subpoena.

According to Ismailova, the action by the UKMK was linked to her professional activities.

Ismailova and another well-known Kyrgyz rights defender, Aziza Abdyrasulova, have recently sued Atambaev for publicly calling the two women "saboteurs" last month.

Ismailova's group and Abdyrasulova have criticized Kyrgyz authorities for failing to review a number of criminal cases linked to deadly clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010.

On April 29, Ismailova's group strongly criticized a move by the authorities to seize a home belonging to Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek political activist serving a life sentence after being convicted on charges linked to the deadly ethnic clashes.

Askarov has insisted the case is politically motivated.

An expert for the European Union's top court says employers in the bloc may legitimately prohibit Muslim staff from wearing head scarves on the job, provided the ban is based on a “policy of religious and ideological neutrality” in a company.

Juliane Kokott, an advocate general to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), issued the opinion on May 31 after a Belgian court sought clarification on what is banned by EU antidiscrimination laws.

Kokott said a ban on head scarves is acceptable if it is based on “a general company rule prohibiting visible political, philosophical, and religious symbols in the workplace and not on stereotypes or prejudices against one or more particular religions or against religious beliefs in general.”

In the Belgian case, a company had fired a receptionist after she insisted she should be allowed to work wearing a head scarf.

Samira Achbita, who claims she is being discriminated against on the grounds of her religion, has lost her lawsuit in two Belgian courts and is now before the country's Court of Cassation, which sought the EU court's opinion before ruling on the matter.

Kokott’s opinion is not a binding ruling and judges at the ECJ are now considering what final guidance to issue.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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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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