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Tuesday 5 October 2021

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Comedian Idrak Mirzalizade attends a court hearing in Moscow earlier this year.

A court in Moscow has ordered the Interior Ministry to reconsider a lifetime ban on a stand-up comic of Azerbaijani origin that prohibits him from entering and residing in Russia.

Sergei Badamshin, a lawyer for comedian Idrak Mirzalizade, said on Telegram that the Zamoskvorechye district court "partially satisfied" his client’s appeal on October 5 and ordered the ministry to find "a reasonable ban term" for the performer.

In late August, the Interior Ministry said the presence in Russia of Mirzalizade, a Belarusian citizen who holds permanent residence in Russia, was "undesirable" because of his statements that "incited hatred and enmity toward ethnic Russians."

Last month, the Zamoskvorechye district court suspended the ministry's decision.

Mirzalizade, who is a well-known stand-up comic in Moscow, has said the performance at the heart of the controversy was about problems faced by non-Russians when they want to rent an apartment in the Russian capital.

In the performance, the comedian jokes about what would happen if the perception of Russians by others was based on various incidents, drawing a parallel with situations that shape prejudices about non-Russians living among Russians.

Mirzalizade served 10 days in jail in August for the performance.

Though he has maintained his innocence, he also has publicly offered apologies several times to "all who felt insulted by some parts of my performance, which were taken out of context."

Earlier in June, the comic wrote on Instagram that two unknown men attacked him after he received several threats because of his performance.

He also placed a video on YouTube showing the moment of the attack.

Mirzalizade is an ethnic Talysh, which is a Persian-speaking ethnic minority in Azerbaijan.

Belarusian journalist Henadz Mazheyka (file photo)

A Belarusian journalist who has been behind bars for four days is facing charges over an article he wrote about a deadly raid by officers of the Committee of State Security (KGB) on a Minsk apartment a week ago.

Henadz Mazheyka, a correspondent for the Belarusian edition of the Moscow-based Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, was indicted for insulting a government official or inciting social hatred, the Interior Ministry said on October 4.

The charges carry sentences of up to 12 years in prison.

The authorities have detained nearly 120 people across Belarus on similar charges since a September 28 shooting in the capital in which an IT worker and a KGB officer died, according to the Minsk-based human rights group Vyasna.

Gunfight In Minsk: Doubts Raised About Dramatic Video As Two Killed In KGB Raid
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The group says the arrests are connected to comments on social media about the incident.

The Interior Ministry said that Mazheyka was arrested on October 1 upon arriving in Minsk from Russia, where he tried to travel to an unspecified third country. Russian authorities ordered him to return back to Belarus as he had been labeled an undesirable person in Russia, the ministry said.

Komsomolskaya Pravda in Moscow quoted Mazheyka's relatives as saying on October 5 that the journalist has been transferred to a detention facility in the town of Zhodina, near Minsk.

Belarusian authorities blocked Komsomolskaya Pravda's website last week after Mazheyka's article was published about Andrey Zeltsar, an employee of the U.S.-based EPAM Systems IT company who was shot dead during last month's shooting incident.

In the article, a classmate of Zeltsar remembers him as a decent person.

The Union of Journalists of Russia urged Belarusian authorities to immediately release the journalist, describing his arrest as "pressure on independent journalism" in Belarus.

Belarus was engulfed by protests last year after a presidential election in August -- which the opposition and the West say was rigged -- gave authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

In response, the government has cracked down hard on the pro-democracy movement and independent media, arresting thousands of people and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country.

The opposition and the West have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the country’s legitimate leader and called for a new, independently monitored vote.

With reporting by TASS and Komsomolskaya Pravda

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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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