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Belarusian blogger Ihar Losik (file photo)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reiterated its call for Belarusian authorities to release Ihar Losik, a popular blogger and RFE/RL consultant, as he marked his 300th day in detention on charges widely considered to have been trumped-up.

Losik has been "cruelly separated from his wife, his daughter, and his colleagues for far too long" and "must be freed from detention and allowed to rejoin his family," RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in a statement on April 21.

He also urged the government to cease its "repressive campaign against independent journalists, including RFE/RL reporters and staff," and allow them to "continue their work to provide objective information to the people of Belarus."

Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled the country since 1994, has orchestrated a brutal crackdown since protesters flooded streets across the country following a presidential election they say was rigged in his favor.

Almost 30,000 people have been detained since the August 2020 vote, hundreds beaten, several killed, and the media targeted by security forces.

Losik, 28, is among more than 300 political prisoners caught up in the crackdown, according to human rights groups.

Losik has been in pretrial detention since June 2020. He was initially charged with allegedly using his popular Telegram channel to "prepare to disrupt public order" ahead of the August election.

Wife Of Jailed Belarusian Blogger Speaks Out In Video Statement
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Earlier this month, he tried to slit his wrists and launched a four-day hunger strike after being informed of new, unspecified charges. He had previously launched a six-week hunger strike to protest the original charges.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusians continue to demand the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka amid a brutal crackdown on protesters. The West refuses to recognize him as the country's legitimate leader after an August 9 election considered fraudulent.

On March 22, 11 days after he was informed of the new charges, a court extended Losik's pretrial detention to May 25. He has yet to face a court hearing on any of the alleged offenses police say he committed.

The Belarusian opposition says its candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, won the vote. The West has refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of the former Soviet republic.

The European Union, the United States, and other countries have slapped sanctions on top Belarusian officials in response to the crackdown on protesters and the opposition.

In a letter addressed to Losik on March 26, a bipartisan group of seven U.S. lawmakers condemned his "unjust and illegitimate detainment," saying they stood "shoulder to shoulder" with him, his family, and all other Belarusians struggling in the country's pro-democracy movement.

"We join the international community in strongly condemning your unjust and illegitimate detainment by the Belarusian authorities," the congressmen said in their letter. "We stand ready to hold those complicit in your illegitimate detention to account through targeted sanctions working with our friends and allies in the European Union."

The U.S. State Department and other members of Congress have previously condemned the wrongful detention of Losik and other political prisoners.

On April 19, the U.S. State Department announced it would not renew a special license authorizing transactions with nine state-owned Belarusian companies, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that the country's "regression" on human rights is "exemplified" by independent media experts like Losik and other Belarusians "unjustly imprisoned by the Lukashenka regime for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Turkmen activist Dursoltan Taganova (file photo)

A Turkmen activist and outspoken critic of the tightly controlled Central Asian nation's government who resides in Istanbul says she has come under pressure in Turkey ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Ashgabat.

Dursoltan Taganova told the Moscow-based Memorial human rights group on April 20 that she was summoned to Turkey's immigration service last week, where she was warned that she may face problems with her residency unless she stops her political activities.

According to Taganova, during the questioning on April 15, a Turkish immigration official asked her about her relatives, permanent address, her request for political asylum, and the reasons for her being critical of the Turkmen government.

"They told me: 'Stop your presentations on the Internet. That is what the Turkish government needs. We do not want you to have problems with your residency here'," Memorial cited Taganova as saying.

Taganova also said that Turkish officials made it clear that they were monitoring her correspondence with other bloggers and their online presentations criticizing the Turkmen government.

She added that several days ago her TikTok account was blocked after she used it for her blog about economic problems in Turkmenistan.

Last July, Taganova, along with dozens of other Turkmen, mostly migrant workers, was arrested in Istanbul on charges of violating coronavirus restrictions.

She and others were detained just hours before they planned to hold a rally in front of the Turkmen Consulate in Istanbul to criticize Ashgabat's inadequate response to the pandemic and to call for President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s resignation.

Most of the detainees were released about five hours later, but Taganova was remanded in custody as Turkish authorities wanted to deport her back to Turkmenistan.

She was released in October after a group of 11 human rights organizations urged Turkish authorities not deport her, saying she would face arbitrary arrest and torture if she was returned to Turkmenistan.

Protests against Berdymukhammedov were staged for several months last year by Turkmen citizens residing in Turkey, the United States, and Northern Cyprus.

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

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About This Blog

"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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