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Nongovernmental organizations in Tajikistan are concerned over new legislation that restricts their access to foreign grants.

Participants at an international conference in Dushanbe said on November 18 that according to legal amendments recently adopted by aparliament, NGOs in the Central Asian nation will only be able to receive grants from foreign entities if they have apprival from the government.

The leader of the National Association of Independent Media in Tajikistan (NANSMIT), Nuriddin Karshiboev, said at the conference that the change would have substantial effects on the activity of NGOs and would probably force some of them to close.

The "Freedom of Speech in Tajikistan" conference was organized by the European Union and Tajik government.

Aron Atabek in a 2007 photo

Penitentiary authorities in Kazakhstan are denying reports from a rights group that says jailed dissident poet Aron Atabek has been tortured.

The warden of a detention center in the northern city of Pavlodar, Ernur Saspanov, told RFE/RL on November 14 that Atabek is "a too well-known individual to do anything illegal against him."

The Almaty-based nongovernmental organization Ar.Rukh.Khaq (Dignity, Spirit, Truth) said on November 10 that Atabek has been "tortured in custody."

It said guards have intentionally splashed water with a high concentration of chlorine on the floor of his cell, damaging his health.

Atabek, 61, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2007 after being convicted of helping organize protests that resulted in the death of a police officer.

He told relatives in July that guards had broken his leg.

Atabek has maintained his innocence. He rejected a 2012 government pardon offer that would have required him to admit guilt.

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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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