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Earlier this month, Tajik authorities removed 10-year-old Fatima Davlatova (left) and her grandmother (right) from an international flight just before takeoff.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has welcomed recent decisions by Tajik authorities to allow two children of exiled dissidents to leave the country and reunite with their families who live abroad.

"Even though the government’s actions were very late in coming, it has acted correctly in allowing ordinary Tajik citizens to leave the country," the U.S.-based international rights group said on August 14.

Early in August, Tajik authorities removed 10-year-old Fatima Davlatova, along with her grandmother and uncle, from an international flight just before takeoff. The move stopped them from traveling to Europe to reunite with Fatima’s mother, activist Shabnam Hudoidodova.

But on August 11, following an international outcry, Tajik security officers gave the family new flight tickets to make the journey, HRW said.

Tajik authorities had also prevented 4-year-old Ibrohim Hamza from traveling abroad for necessary medical treatment, before giving him and his mother travel documents on August 1.

Hamza’s father, Ruhullo Tillozoda, is a leading member of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

HRW said Hamza and Davlatova had "effectively been held hostage for years -- banned from leaving the country since a severe human rights crackdown picked up steam in 2015 -- to punish their parents abroad for peaceful political and human rights work.”

Allowing the two children to leave Tajikistan "is only the very tip of the iceberg in terms of ending the government's practice of harassing relatives of exiled activists and politicians, or indeed of ending the human rights crisis that has gripped the country for the last three years," HRW said.

The Khujand City Court is scheduled on August 15 to start hearing an appeal from Tajik journalist Hairullo Mirsaidov, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in July for alleged financial crimes.

The 39-year-old Mirsaidov and rights groups have rejected the charges as politically motivated.

Azerbaijani oppositionist Ilqar Mammadov (file photo)

SAKI, Azerbaijan -- The leader of Azerbaijan's opposition Republican Alternative (REAL) party has been released from prison after serving more than five years of his seven-year term.

A court of appeals in the northern city of Saki ruled on August 13 that Ilqar Mammadov's remaining prison term must be suspended.

The court also ruled that Mammadov has a two-year probation period during which he will not be allowed to leave the country.

Mammadov called the ruling "not a complete victory," saying that that he and his lawyers had demanded "a full acquittal."

In a statement, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland welcomed the court order to release Mammadov, saying that "political prisoners in Europe, innocent people should not be deprived of their liberty."

Mammadov was arrested in February 2013 and charged with helping organize riots in the town of Ismayilli, northwest of Baku. He was sentenced to 7 years in jail in March 2014.

The opposition leader has insisted that the case against him was politically motivated.

In April, the Republican Alternative opposition movement announced it was now a political party but said it will not seek formal registration by the state.

Rights groups and Western governments have urged Azerbaijani authorities to release Mammadov and other political prisoners in the oil-rich South Caucasus country for years, and criticized the former Soviet republic's government for persistent clampdowns targeting independent journalists and rights defenders.

President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled the Caucasus nation of almost 10 million people with an iron fist since shortly before his father's death in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.

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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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