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A teenage Chechen activist who appeared in a recent video in which he appears to have been tortured and humiliated was reportedly kidnapped by people with connections to the authorities in Chechnya.

The independent Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta said that 19-year-old Salman Tepsurkayev was kidnapped on September 5 while outside Chechnya and by the following day was being held at the base of the Terek special-operations unit in the Chechen capital, Grozny, according to information gleaned from Tepsurkayev's cellphone signal.

Late on September 7, a social-media video appeared in which a naked person -- who identifies himself as Tepsurkayev and says he was an administrator with the opposition 1ADAT Telegram channel -- stands on his knees and says, "I am punishing myself."

He then apologizes and sits down on a glass bottle.

The video has been watched tens of thousands of times and has caused a public sensation across the North Caucasus republic.

In a second video posted on September 9 to a pro-government Instagram channel, Tepsurkayev explains that he made the first video because of a dispute he'd had with the 1ADAT management and because he regretted the statements he'd made about Chechen police and other authorities.

The Memorial human rights group called on the authorities in Moscow to establish Tepsurkayev's whereabouts and to investigate allegations that he was kidnapped and tortured.

The 1ADAT channel is highly critical of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been widely accused of human rights abuses, including torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings both in Russia and abroad. It publishes information about people who it believes have been kidnapped and are being held by the authorities.

A source at 1ADAT who asked not to be identified told RFE/RL that Tepsurkayev was not an administrator at the channel but was an activist with a Chechen opposition group and sometimes moderated chats for 1ADAT. The source said the channel only learned Tepsurkayev's real name from the video.

Chechen vlogger Tumso Abdurkhmanov commented that the Tepsurkayev video was "extraordinary even for Kadyrov's Chechnya."

A spokeswoman for the office of the Chechen human rights ombudsman told RFE/RL that the office was aware of the video but had not looked into it because there has been no request from the victim or his relatives.

Protesters rally in Baku on September 9.

BAKU -- Police in Baku have detained dozens of demonstrators demanding the immediate release of hunger-striking Azerbaijani opposition politician Tofiq Yaqublu, who was sentenced to more than four years in prison on hooliganism charges which he and his supporters call "bogus."

The demonstrators initially planned to rally in front of the building of the Constitutional Court in Baku on September 9, but police blocked all ways leading to the site as dozens of protesters gathered on central Azerbaijan Avenue.

The demonstrators were holding posters saying "Freedom to Tofiq Yaqublu" and chanting "Free Tofiq!" as police arrived and started detaining them and forcing them onto buses.

Yaqublu's daughter, Nigar Hazi-Yaqublu, well-known public figures Baxtiyar Haciyev, Rabiyya Mammadova, and journalist Fatima Movlamli, were among at least 20 people detained by police, RFE/RL correspondents reported from Baku.

The 59-year-old Yaqublu is a deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat Party and a senior politician in the National Council of Democratic Forces.

He was convicted of "hooliganism" and sentenced to four years and three months in prison on September 3 over a dispute after a traffic accident that he and rights groups say was a setup for the "bogus" case.

Yaqublu's lawyer, Aqil Layic, told RFE/RL on September 7 that the politician was being pressured to confess to nonexistent psychological problems to explain his hunger strike.

Yaqublu was arrested in March after the car crash.

Investigators accused Yaqublu of "using a wrench to conduct an act of hooliganism" against the other driver, a charge he has denied.

European officials have expressed concerns over Yaqublu's conviction and called on Baku to revisit his case.

Yaqublu, who frequently criticizes the government and authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev, spent 14 months in prison in 2013-14 on charges widely dismissed as politically motivated.

He was also sentenced to several days in jail in October 2019 after an opposition rally, during which he claims he was tortured in custody.

Critics of Aliyev's government say authorities in the oil-rich Caspian Sea state frequently seek to silence dissent by jailing opposition activists, journalists, and civil-society advocates on trumped-up charges.

Aliyev has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003, taking over for his father, Heydar Aliyev, who served as president for a decade.

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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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