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Azimjan Askarov speaks to a reporter in his prison cell.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Kyrgyz authorities to immediately release a human rights activist of Uzbek background who is serving life in prison for his alleged role in organizing deadly ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan's south two years ago.

The group is also urging the authorities to investigate Azimjan Askarov's alleged beating while in custody.

Askarov, head of the rights group Vozdukh (Air), was found guilty in September 2010 of organizing clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, and of involvement in the murder of a police officer during the violence.

Askarov and his supporters reject any wrongdoing, saying he was documenting the violence.

Around 450 people, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, were killed in violence in the southern Jalal-Abad and Osh regions in June 2010.

With reporting by Interfax
Bolat Atabaev has been charged with "inciting social hatred" in connection with last year's protests.
ALMATY -- Kazakh authorities have arrested a prominent opposition theater director on charges linked to the deadly unrest last year in the western town of Zhanaozen.

Director Bolat Atabaev told RFE/RL by phone that he was taken on June 15 to the National Security Committee detention center in Almaty.

Atabaev has been charged with "inciting social hatred" in connection with last year's protests by striking oil workers in Zhanaozen, where police shot dead at least 16 people in mid-December.

Atabaev had refused earlier this week to submit to questioning by National Security Committee officers.

In March, Atabaev premiered a play that indirectly addressed the Zhanaozen events.

Atabaev is scheduled in August to receive Germany's Goethe Medal, an official decoration honoring non-Germans, for his contribution to cooperation between the German and Kazakh theaters.

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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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