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STRASBOURG, France -- The European Parliament has called on Belarus to rehabilitate released political prisoners and to fully restore their civil and political rights.

In a resolution overwhelmingly passed on September 10, EU lawmakers welcomed the release in August of major political prisoners, including former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich, but stressed that they remain "deeply concerned by the human rights and fundamental freedoms situation in Belarus."

The resolution says that similar steps in the past "were rather token gestures and neither contributed to improving the situation of Belarusian society nor improved relations with the EU."

It also calls on Minsk to allow the opposition to compete in the October presidential elections on an equal footing.

There is no mention in the text of the EU's restrictive measures such as asset freezes and visa bans which were imposed on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and up to 200 others after the 2010 presidential elections.

STRASBOURG, France -- European lawmakers have passed a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova and several other Azerbaijani activists, human rights defenders, and lawyers.

Ismayilova, a contributor to RFE/RL, was sentenced on September 1 to 7 1/2 years in prison on charges widely seen as retribution for her reports on corruption involving senior government officials.

The resolution urges EU authorities "to conduct a thorough investigation into the corruption allegations against President [Ilham] Aliyev and members of his family."

It also calls on both the EU Commission and EU member states to mount "a strong and unified response to the crackdown under way in Azerbaijan" and to consider "targeted sanctions and visa bans on all politicians, officials and judges involved in the political persecutions.”

The text was backed by all political parties in parliament apart from the center-right European People's Party.

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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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