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A woman dances under a huge rainbow flag during a gay pride parade in Belgrade on September 18.

Gay pride marchers have rallied in central Belgrade amid a massive turnout of riot police and security officials aimed at preventing unrest that had marred previous rallies.

Several hundred people carrying banners and flags marched through the Serbian capital on September 18 as helicopters flew above. Police with dogs secured the area, which was sealed off to traffic for hours ahead of time.

No incidents were reported and gay rights activist Boban Stojanovic said the march was held with less tension than in previous years, when far-right demonstrators clashed with police.

PHOTO GALLERY: Belgrade Pride March Passes Off Peacefully

In 2010, more than 100 officers and extremists were injured in rioting that damaged parts of central Belgrade.

Serbia has since sought to boost gay rights as part of its bid to join the European Union. An openly gay minister was appointed to the government for the first time last month.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters
Azerbaijani Police Clash With Activists After Baku Rally
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Police have clashed with protesters in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, after an antigovernment rally.

The police intervention came after hundreds of demonstrators held a rally on September 17 protesting an upcoming referendum that would give Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev greater powers and a longer term in office.

Several journalists were also detained by police during the clashes, including at least two freelancers working for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.

One RFE/RL journalist was taken from the scene of the protest in a bus with some 30 detainees.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The protest, which was sanctioned by the government, was organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces, an umbrella organization uniting part of Azerbaijan's opposition forces.

WATCH: Footage Of The Baku Protest (natural sound)

Demonstrators oppose the holding of a September 26 referendum in the tightly controlled South Caucasus country that is expected to strengthen the authority of Aliyev, extend the length of presidential terms, and drop the minimum age for future presidential candidates.

Some slogans at the rally included "No to monarchy, end to robbery!" and "Where is the $140 billion oil money?"

Activists have warned that Azerbaijan’s government has stepped up the repression of journalists, civil society activists, and human rights workers ahead of the referendum, and urged the West to do more to confront Baku.

The oil-rich South Caucasus nation has faced growing social and economic problems stemming from falling world oil prices in recent years.

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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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