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The case of Yevgeny Zhovtis was singled out as a violation of legal rights.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the international community to demand that the Kazakh government improve the country’s human rights situation before it leads the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in January, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The statement by the New-York based rights group on November 25 came ahead of an OSCE foreign ministers’ meeting in Athens, the last meeting of the OSCE before Kazakhstan assumes the OSCE chair.

HRW said that Kazakhstan needs to bring its human rights record in line with OSCE standards, and it criticized Kazakh authorities for tightening state control over media and prosecuting human rights activists.

HRW also criticized Kazakhstan’s handling of the case of Yevgeny Zhovtis, the director of the nongovernmental Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights.

Zhovtis was sentenced in September to four years in jail for his role in a deadly traffic accident. HRW said that the investigation and trial leading up to Zhovtis's conviction were marred by serious procedural flaws that denied him the right to present a defense and gave rise to concerns that the case was politically motivated.

Kazakhstan successfully secured the OSCE chairmanship in late 2007 after promising to reform media laws and election regulations, and to simplify the registration process for political parties.
Irek Murtazin was sentenced for "instigating hatred"
Irek Murtazin, a blogger and former press secretary of Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiyev, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for libeling his former boss and "instigating hatred and hostility" toward a social group, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Murtazin, 45, posted an online report in September 2008 speculating that Shaimiyev had died while on an extended vacation in Turkey.

In addition, Shaimiyev, 72, had accused Murtazin of "instigating hatred" with certain passages in his 2006 book, "Shaimiyev: The Last President Of Tatarstan."

Murtazin told RFE/RL that the trial against him was a "theater of the absurd" and that he will appeal the verdict.

Shaimiyev also had accused Murtazin of breaking privacy laws by including personal details about his life in his book. That charge was dismissed by the court.

Murtazin told RFE/RL that the verdict by the court sets a dangerous precedent in which "any word of criticism" against a Russian leader could be used to file criminal charges against someone.

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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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