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Vasila Inoyatova
Uzbekistan's opposition Birlik (Unity) party has called for the "fair treatment" of ethnic Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The call was made in a statement by Birlik at a Tashkent conference marking the party's 22nd anniversary on May 7.

Although many of the unregistered party's members are living in exile, Birlik still operates in Uzbekistan despite harassment from officials.

With a handful of Birlik activists still living in Uzbekistan in attendance and exiled party leader Abdurahim Polatov on the phone from the United States, a discussion was held about problems regarding human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan.

Another main topic was the aftermath of the ethnic conflict in southern Kyrgyzstan, where nearly 500 people were killed in June during clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz.

Birlik members discussed the recent report by the Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC), the independent international group that conducted an investigation into the ethnic unrest, which took place in the Kyrgyz regions of Osh and Jalalabad last summer.

The conference participants adopted a statement calling on their "Kyrgyz brother nation" to stop persecuting ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan.

The statement noted the findings in the KIC report issued on May 3, in which it stated that some 75 percent of the casualties were suffered by ethnic Uzbeks but 80 percent of the criminal cases in connection with the June clashes are against Uzbeks.

Vasila Inoyatova, Birlik's secretary-general in Tashkent, told RFE/RL that party members plan to hold a rally in front of the Kyrgyz Embassy to demand the fair and just treatment of ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan.

"No one can guarantee that the violence will not occur again tomorrow," she said. "Because today in Kyrgyzstan activities are being held that have nationalist slogans. In the media and among people a message is being sent that Kyrgyzstan is only for Kyrgyz. This means that tomorrow, again, Uzbeks could be massacred, driven away from their homes. That's why, in order to try to prevent such events, we plan to conduct certain activities."

Birlik was the first-ever opposition movement formed in Soviet Uzbekistan, being officially established in May 1989 by members of the Uzbek intelligentsia.
Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut
HRODNA, Belarus -- Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut has had his request to be released on bail rejected by officials in the western Belarusian city of Hrodna, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Poczobut, who is active in Belarus's ethnic Polish community, is a correspondent in Belarus for the Polish daily "Gazeta Wyborcza." He was detained on April 6 and charged with "insulting the personal dignity and honor of the president" in his newspaper articles and online comments.

Poczobut's lawyer, Alyaksandr Birylau, told RFE/RL that he visited Poczobut in a pretrial detention center in Hrodna on May 6. He said Poczobut's morale is high and he receives many letters from friends and supporters every day.

Birylau added that the investigator in Poczobut's case, Arseni Nikolski, has refused to grant bail to Poczobut while the investigation is being conducted.

Poczobut, who is a leading member of the embattled Polish cultural organization the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), could face up to two years in jail if found guilty.

Minsk's treatment of the group strained ties between Belarus and the European Union last year, particularly after the ZPB was evicted from its office buildings near Minsk and police detained a number of its activists.

The ZPB has been trying for five years to regain official registration in Belarus. In 2009, Belarusian officials registered the Union of Belarusian Poles, an alternative organization representing ethnic Poles in Belarus that has friendly relations with the official Minsk administration.

The Polish government regards the ZPB as the only legal representative of the Polish minority in Belarus.

Ethnic Poles comprise around 4 percent of Belarus's 9.7 million population.

Read more in Belarusian here

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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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