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Bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada
Amnesty International claims that Azerbaijani leaders can expect to receive up to 10,000 handwritten letters from Poland calling on them to release two jailed bloggers, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Amnesty International in Poland estimated that local activists wrote that many appeals for Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli during a letter-writing marathon marking human rights day on December 10.

Milli and Hajizada, who had written critically about Azerbaijan's government, were jailed for 2 1/2 and two years last month on hooliganism charges in a case international rights groups say is politically motivated.

Their case was among 15 from around the world highlighted at the Polish letter-writing event.

The letters call on Azerbaijan's president, justice minister, and ombudsman to take all the necessary steps to release the bloggers unconditionally and immediately as Amnesty considers the young activists prisoners of conscience.

"The bloggers' case is one of those which are especially urgent now," Wojciech Makowski, the Amnesty Marathon Coordinator in Poland, told RFE/RL, explaining why the case was highlighted.

"It was recommended by Amnesty International Secretariat to include it in this year's marathon. Besides, the bloggers visited Poland and they have many friends here."

This year's Amnesty International Letter-Writing Marathon beat a record in Poland, with activists penning more than 100,000 letters for prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders who remain under threat all over the world.

The 24-hour action was held in more than 100 Polish towns. This year, Warsaw beat its own record established last year at 78,000 letters.

"It is a very good result, though obviously it is not numbers that are important but how effective and successful our letter-writing could be and what will eventually happen to all these individuals we are writing for," Makowski said. "Among the last year's cases, seven ended in a positive way for the addressees."

The Global Letter-Writing Marathon originated in Poland. It was held for the first time in 2001.

This year, 38 countries all over the globe joined the event to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on December 10, 1948.
Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner in Gorky in 1985
Yelena Bonner, the widow of Soviet-era rights defender Andrei Sakharov and an outspoken rights campaigner in her own right, has lamented what she says is a decline in the invocation of her late husband's name and ideals, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Bonner said at a conference devoted to the late Nobel laureate Sakharov's legacy that his name is mentioned only at anniversaries and special events.

She said too many people have forgotten the ideals he espoused and activities he undertook under Soviet repression.

Today's conference was organized at the Foreign Literature Library to mark the 20th anniversary of Sakharov's death.

In his address to conference participants, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sakharov's ideas are similar to the goals and tasks facing current Russian society.

Sakharov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, was a leading Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident, and human rights activist.

He was persecuted by Soviet authorities for his ideas promoting civil liberties and reforms.

After Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced reforms associated with "perestroika" in 1985, Sakharov returned to Moscow from internal exile and entered Soviet social and political life.

He died of a heart attack on December 14, 1989, at the age of 68.

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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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