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Paul Whelan

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has asked the Moscow court trying him on espionage charges to allow a doctor from the American Embassy to examine him at his detention facility, saying his groin hernia had worsened, according to his lawyer.

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has asked the Moscow court trying him on espionage charges to allow a doctor from the American Embassy to examine him at his detention facility, saying his groin hernia had worsened, according to his lawyer.

Interfax quoted defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov as saying Whelan made the request as his trial resumed at the Moscow City Court on April 13 following a delay of two weeks.

The court will announce a decision on the request at the next hearing scheduled for April 20, according to Zherebenkov, who said Whelan "finds it difficult to get up."

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said April 13 that he tried to enter the courthouse before Whelan's hearing but was denied entry.

"Paul continues to endure complicated medical issues that are potentially life threatening and require treatment. We have repeatedly asked for our doctors to visit Paul but have been met with only denials," Sullivan said in a statement. "I remain concerned about Paul’s health and welfare; he needs medical care and he needs to go home."

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian, and Irish passports, was arrested in a hotel room in Moscow in December 2018 and is accused of receiving classified information.

He was charged with espionage, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Whelan denies the charges and says he was framed. His family said he was in Moscow for a wedding at the time of his arrest.

U.S. officials have urged Moscow to release Whelan and criticized the Russian authorities for their "shameful treatment" of him.

"The entire case against Paul -- the circumstances of his arrest, total lack of evidence, and ongoing imprisonment -- is not only morally wrong and legally suspect but represents a significant obstacle in the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship," Ambassador Sullivan said in the April 13 statement.

Whelan's brother, David Whelan, has said that U.S. Embassy officials have been barred from visiting him at Moscow's Lefortovo detention center due to what Russian authorities claimed were concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Russian authorities have rejected allegations of ill-treatment.

During the April 13 hearing, the court read the indictment against Whelan, who called the case against him a "provocation" by the Federal Security Service, according to Zherebenkov.

His trial was delayed because of what authorities said were "restrictions imposed over the coronavirus."

Russian courts have suspended many court proceedings over the coronavirus outbreak and banned the public from the hearings.

At a March 23 hearing, the Moscow City Court extended Whelan's detention until September 13.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax
Daler Sharifov

A Tajik court has postponed the trial of a journalist who is facing what international media-freedom watchdogs call "absurd" extremism charges. 

DUSHANBE -- A Tajik court has postponed the trial of a journalist who is facing what international media-freedom watchdogs call "absurd" extremism charges.

A court in Dushanbe’s Shomansur district was scheduled to hold a hearing on April 13, but a lawyer for Daler Sharifov told RFE/RL that the session was postponed for two days because the state prosecutor was absent.

A large group of journalists and civic activists had gathered outside the courthouse in the hope of attending the hearing.

However, it remained unclear whether the trial would be open to the public, said Sharifov's lawyer, Abdurahmon Sharifov, who is not related.

The 32-year-old Sharifov, who writes about domestic politics and religious issues, was arrested on January 28. Police also searched his apartment in Dushanbe and confiscated a computer and several books.

Sharifov was later charged with inciting ethnic, racial, and religious hatred. He could be jailed for up to five years if found guilty.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office says the case is based on "more than 200 articles and commentaries containing extremist content" aimed at "inciting religious intolerance" that were published on social media between 2013 and 2019.

Sharifov's relatives, human rights organizations, and media-freedom groups have rejected the accusations as unfounded and demand his immediate release.

Calling the incitement charges "absurd," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have said Sharifov's arrest was aimed at silencing a critical journalist ahead of parliamentary elections in March that were won, as expected, by President Emomali Rahmon's ruling party.

The European Congress of Tajik Journalists and Bloggers has called Sharifov's arrest illegal and emphasized that the journalist regularly opposed religious extremism and terrorism.

Writing for the independent news website Ozodagon from 2013 until its closure last year following "years of harassment," Sharipov often commented on violations of human rights and religious freedoms, according to RSF.

Eight years ago, the journalist spent several days in hospital after being beaten in a still unpunished attack.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized authorities for suppressing dissent and independent media in Tajikistan, which is ranked 161 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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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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