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Aiman Omarova, a lawyer for the Volunteers of the Fatherland group said that the Kazakh Justice Ministry has refused to register the organization four times.

NUR-SULTAN -- A group that defends the rights of ethnic Kazakhs in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang says it will sue Kazakhstan's Justice Ministry for repeatedly refusing to register the nongovernmental organization.

Erbol Dauletbek, a representative of the Atazhurt Eriktileri (Volunteers of the Fatherland) group, and the group's lawyer Aiman Omarova said on June 21 that the ministry has refused to register the organization four times.

They say that each time the group has tried to register, the ministry has cited technicalities and errors in the application documents submitted.

Omarova called those justifications "baseless," and said all of the application documents were filled out and prepared properly in two languages, Kazakh and Russian, in accordance with Kazakhstan's laws and regulations.

The group's leader, Serikzhan Bilash, has been under house arrest since March on charges of inciting ethnic discord after his organization staged several gatherings of ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang who have settled in Kazakhstan and complain that their relatives are being held in what the Chinese government calls "reeducation camps."

Bilash was born in Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan, and is a naturalized Kazakh citizen.

In February, an Almaty court found Bilash guilty of being the leader of an unregistered organization and fined him the equivalent of $670.

Atazhurt Eriktileri has been operating in Kazakhstan since 2017 without registration.

Bilash said in February that his group would continue to defend the rights of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, and vowed to try again to register the group at the Justice Ministry.

The United Nations said last August that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people of Xinjiang were being held in what it described as "counterextremism centers" in northwestern China..

The UN also said millions more had been forced into internment camps.

China says that the facilities are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society.

Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev, the religious-affairs editor of Chernovik, was charged with financing terrorism.

MAKHACHKSALSA, Russia -- Three leading newspapers in Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan have published a joint editorial on their front pages to demand the immediate release of journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev, who was arrested on what they called "trumped up" terrorism charges.

Gadzhiyev's independent Chernovik newspaper and two other weeklies, Svobodnaya respublika (Free Republic) and Novoye delo (New Cause), published editorials on June 21 with a large headline reading: "I Am/We Are Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev."

The move was similar to what major Russian newspapers in Moscow did earlier in June to demand the release of detained investigative journalist Ivan Golunov.

Gadzhiyev, the religious-affairs editor of Chernovik, was detained on June 14 and charged with financing terrorism. On June 18, a court in Makhachkala ordered that he be held in pretrial detention for two months.

The charge against Gadzhiyev was based on testimony by another suspect, who subsequently claimed that he was tortured by authorities and forced to make the accusations.

Prosecutors say Gadzhiyev sent money to charities that are allegedly involved in funding the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and other militants. Gadzhiyev and his colleagues deny the accusations.

Chernovik has dismissed the charge and compared the case with that of Golunov.

Golunov was arrested on June 6 in Moscow for allegedly attempting to sell illegal drugs. He was released on June 11 after the charges were dropped amid a public outcry and claims that evidence against him had been planted by police.

On June 19, the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders urged the Russian authorities to free Gadzhiyev.

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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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