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(Un)Civil Societies Report: January 16, 2002

16 January 2002, Volume 3, Number 3
MORE WITNESSES TESTIFY IN CAFE DEATH TRIAL. Five people present in Yerevan's Aragast cafe on the night of 24-25 September, three of them members of the cafe staff, told a Yerevan court on 14 January that they did not witness any brawls or scuffles in the cafe that night, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Nineteen people have testified to date in the trial of Aghamal Harutiunian, a member of Armenian President Robert Kocharian's bodyguards who is charged with the manslaughter of Poghos Poghosian. Prosecutors claim that Poghosian was assaulted by members of Kocharian's bodyguard after having addressed "obscene remarks" to the president, and that he died of a blow to the head incurred in a heavy fall. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

MARTIAL LAW PROLONGED IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH. The leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has extended for a further 12 months the state of martial law first proclaimed in 1992, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 9 January, quoting the office of President Arkadii Ghukasian. No explanation was given for the decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

OPPOSITION PARTIES ALIGN. Thirty-two Azerbaijani political parties participated in a meeting in Baku on 10 January that resulted in 25 of them joining forces to form a new United Opposition Movement and pledging to work together for the resignation of the present leadership and its replacement by "a legitimate government," Turan reported. Those 25 include the Musavat Party, the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, and the conservative wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (AHCP), but not the Azerbaijan National Independence Party or the progressive wing of the AHCP. Those two parties signed a cooperation agreement last October together with the Taraggi Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

AZERBAIJANI SENTENCED FOR SPYING FOR IRAN. Azerbaijan's Court for Serious Crimes sentenced Telman Ismailov on 8 January to 11 years imprisonment on charges of passing to Iran information on the location of Azerbaijani military units, Reuters and Interfax reported. Ismailov was arrested in July 2001 trying to cross from Azerbaijan into Iran. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

OPPOSITIONIST FINED FOLLOWING UNSANCTIONED DEMO. A Baku district court on 14 January fined Mirvari Gahramanli 82,000 manats ($17) on charges of insulting behavior during the 12 January unsanctioned demonstration in Baku by female members of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Human rights organizations issued a statement the same day protesting Gahramanli's arrest as politically motivated. Also on 14 January, the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan issued a statement condemning as a violation of the constitution and international norms police violence against female participants in the demonstration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER NAMED 'POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR.' Opposition Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar was named "Politician of the Year" with 770 votes for 2001 in a poll conducted by the Azerbaijan Public Opinion research center, according to Turan on 12 January. In second place was President Heidar Aliyev with 675 votes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January)

MINSK TOUGH ON OSCE MISSION IN BELARUS. Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvastou told Belarusian Television on 12 January that unless the mandate of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus (AMG) is changed, any further stay of the group in Minsk will become impossible. According to Khvastou, the OSCE mission in Belarus failed to observe its mandate last year. Khvastou said the OSCE's requirements regarding Belarus are more rigorous than those for other countries. "We cannot accept the situation where we are offered different conditions for the activities of the OSCE group than universal ones, which are accepted for such groups in other countries," he noted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January)

OPPOSITION PARTY URGES OSCE TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON BELARUS OVER POLITICAL REPRESSION. The United Civic Party has appealed to the OSCE to impose economic and political sanctions on the Belarusian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka because of its continued repression of political opponents, the Charter-97 website reported on 15 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

MINSK TRACTOR FACTORY DIRECTOR SAID TO CAUSE LOSSES OF $4 MILLION... Valery Yarasheuski from the State Control Committee told Belarusian Television on 9 January that the Minsk Tractor Plant has lost no less than $4 million because of trade operations conducted by its director, Mikhail Lyavonau. Yarasheuski was commenting on the recent arrest of Lyavonau on charges of abuse of office and negligence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

...WHILE OPPOSITION POLITICIANS SEE OTHER REASONS FOR HIS ARREST. Meanwhile, former National Bank Governor Stanislau Bahdankevich has said the arrest of Lyavonau took place within the framework of Belarusian President Lukashenka's "campaign of intimidation" against business executives, Belapan reported. "Lukashenka has earlier announced that, for starters, 15 major directors will be arrested and imprisoned," Bahdankevich noted. United Civic Party deputy head Vasil Shlyndzikau said the authorities are now arresting "more-or-less independent people who have their own view of economic processes in the country." And he added: "Soon the task of finding candidates for managerial posts in Belarus will become as complex as appointing collective farm heads -- there will simply be no people wishing [to assume such posts]." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

PETRITSCH WARNS AGAINST RETURN OF HALILOVIC TO BOSNIAN GOVERNMENT. The office of Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, announced in Sarajevo on 8 January that he is opposed to the proposed return of Sefer Halilovic to the cabinet of the Muslim-Croat federation as minister of refugee and social affairs. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal freed the Muslim ex-general in December pending his trial. Petritsch's office said that one must take into account the feelings of the families of Halilovic's alleged victims, and until his name is cleared, he should not return to the government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

NATIONAL MOVEMENT SIMEON II TO BECOME POLITICAL PARTY. The leadership of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) coalition plans to register the movement as a party in the near future, reported on 10 January. The leaders of the two parties that originally formed the NDSV, Vesela Draganova and Tosho Peykov, said the condition on which the responsible court will grant the registration is important. Bulgarian legislation allows parties as well as movements to run for elections. The new party might not be allowed to have a parliamentary faction and it could lose state financing. "The easiest way [to avoid this] would be to change the law on political parties, the election law, and regulations of the parliament," the NDSV's Emil Koshlukov said. The NDSV holds 120 seats in the 240-seat parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

COURT FREES MOBSTERS FOR 'LACK OF EVIDENCE.' The Zagreb county court has freed Nikica Jelavic and four other alleged underworld kingpins, saying there is not enough evidence to proceed on any of the charges against them, dpa reported on 9 January. The news agency added that the charges included "murder, attempted murder, extortion, money laundering, drug abuse, kidnapping, and association with a criminal organization." The trial began in October 2000 and has been called the "trial of the century" because of the high visibility of some of the men's businesses and their social contacts with celebrities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

GOVERNMENT APPROVES DECREE ON STATUS LAW. The cabinet passed an implementation decree on the Status Law on 8 January that also includes a provision for educational and cultural subsidies to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries, cabinet spokesman Gabor Borokai told reporters. He said the educational subsidies will be provided to parents with Hungarian nationality certificates who have at least two children in local Hungarian-language schools. The subsidy will include 20,000 forints ($72) annually per child, plus expenses for textbooks and stationery. In other news, Wilfried Martens, the chairman of the European People's Party, issued a statement in Brussels on 8 January saying that Hungary's Socialists are "playing with fire when they whip up nationalist feelings over the memorandum of understanding" reached between Hungary and Romania on the Hungarian Status Law. Martens said, "This is unworthy of a democratic party, even in the heat of the election campaign," Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

PARLIAMENT RECEIVES ETHNIC HUNGARIAN LEADERS. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, and other senior Hungarian officials on 9 January received in parliament the leaders of ethnic Hungarian organizations from neighboring countries, inviting them to share their experiences in implementing the Status Law that went into effect on 1 January, Hungarian radio reported on 10 January. The minority leaders expressed their content with the Romanian-Hungarian memorandum of understanding on the law's implementation, and released a joint statement in support of the Status Law. Responding to the opposition Socialist Party's recent criticism of the memorandum of understanding, Bela Marko, the chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, said that only the memorandum would make it possible to implement the law in Romania. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

EXTREMIST PARTY PRESENTS 10 PASTORS AS CANDIDATES. Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Chairman Istvan Csurka announced on 9 January that neither his party nor the 10 Calvinist pastors who will run for parliament as MIEP candidates during the April general elections consider it irreconcilable to "preach the gospel and engage in public service." The pastors say they do not wish to suspend their church activities, despite the Calvinist synod's decision last November, which is to take effect on 1 March, banning pastors' involvement in politics, Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

DISPLACED PERSONS DEMAND WITHDRAWAL FROM ABKHAZIA OF CIS PEACEKEEPERS. Some 300 Georgian displaced persons who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war picketed the state chancellery on 11 January to demand that President Eduard Shevardnadze act on his pledge to comply with the parliament's demand that the Russian peacekeepers deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone be withdrawn, Caucasus Press reported. The displaced persons threatened to stage mass protests if Shevardnadze fails to meet their demand. On 10 January, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili denied media reports that Tbilisi has offered to agree to an extension of the peacekeepers' mandate provided that Moscow revokes the visa requirement that went into force a year ago for Georgian citizens wishing to travel to the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

PARLIAMENT COMMITTEES RESURRECT ANTICORRUPTION BILL. On 10 January, the Georgian parliament's legal affairs and economics committees began joint hearings on a draft bill first presented last summer by then-Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili that would allow for the confiscation of assets that ministers could not prove were acquired legally, Caucasus Press reported. President Shevardnadze rejected that draft bill as violating the presumption of innocence, saying that the outcome of the privatization of state property will not be revised, and that the principle of "taking away from the rich to give to the poor" cannot be applied in Georgia. Saakashvili, who resigned one month later and was subsequently elected to parliament, has now resubmitted the bill for consideration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

NO ACTION IN WAKE OF ATTACK ON PENTECOSTALS. Members of the Word of Life Pentecostal Church, human rights activists, and some politicians have complained about the failure of the police or prosecutor's office to take any action so far in the wake of last month's attack on a Word of Life service in a cinema in the center of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The mob raid -- the latest in a long series of attacks on minority religious communities dating back to 1999 -- was led by Basil Mkalavishvili, a defrocked priest of the Orthodox Church who enjoys de facto immunity from prosecution for his violent raids. "They must be arrested," the church's pastor insisted to Keston. "It's not a question of religious freedom but of hooliganism. Such hooligan gangs should not be allowed to exist." (Keston News Service, 11 January)

'MKALAVISHVILI SHOULD BE ARRESTED,' SAYS SENIOR POLITICIAN. "Basil Mkalavishvili should be arrested immediately for violating the law and citizens' rights," Elena Tevdoradze, chair of the Georgian parliament's Human Rights Committee said on 11 January, three weeks after Mkalavishvili led a violent raid on a Protestant service. "It is very strange that he has not been arrested already." Tbilisi's chief prosecutor said on 11 January that the case against Mkalavishvili and one of his closest associates was completed last October and has been sent to the court of Tbilisi's Didube-Chugureti district. No date has yet been named for a trial. (Keston News Service, 11 January)

AFGHAN WAR VETS PROTEST ABDUCTION OF HERMIT MONK. Some 50 members of Georgia's Union of Veterans of the War in Afghanistan congregated late on 7 January in the village of Matani, which is close to the mouth of the Pankisi Gorge, to demand the immediate release of an Azerbaijani and of a Georgian hermit monk taken hostage in the gorge in November. As of early on 9 January, their numbers had swelled to 100. The unknown abductors of Father Basil have demanded a $1 million ransom. National Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania on 4 January asked 15 Georgian clergymen who began a similar protest near the gorge three days earlier to disperse lest they "destabilize the situation" in the district. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

DEATH PENALTY TO BE INTRODUCED FOR ATTACKS ON PRESIDENT? The Kazakh government has drafted amendments to existing antiterrorism legislation that provide for stiffer punishment for involvement in and advocacy of terrorism, Interfax quoted Sergei Zhalybin, the chairman of the parliament committee for legislation and court reform, as saying. Those amendments provide among other things for the imposition of the death penalty or life imprisonment for attempts to assassinate the president. Zhalybin said that bill was first submitted in July 2001 and thus is not a response to the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States. A second bill under consideration would require all adult citizens to submit to fingerprinting as part of the procedure for applying for identification documents, according to ITAR-TASS and on 10 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

ARRESTED POLITICAL ACTIVIST RELEASED. Oral Saulebay, who is a leading member of the Azat movement and chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Kazakh Lands, was released from custody in South Kazakhstan Oblast on 10 January and returned to Almaty the following day, RFE/RL's correspondent in the former capital reported. Saulebay was detained by Uzbek police on 30 December following a protest demonstration in the village of Baghys on the Uzbek-Kazakh border and charged with organizing an unsanctioned meeting and with insulting the honor and dignity of the presidents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. He was transferred from Tashkent to the oblast police headquarters in South Kazakhstan Oblast a week ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

NEW OPPOSITION MOVEMENT TO LOBBY FOR REFERENDUM ON LOCAL ELECTIONS. Speaking at a press conference in Almaty on 9 January, two leading members of the recently formed movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, Tilek Alzhanov and Bolat Abilov, said the movement plans to campaign for the holding of a referendum in which citizens will be asked whether they approve the current practice of appointing oblast and local officials or think such officials should be elected, Interfax reported. The movement will also campaign for the adoption of a new, more liberal media law, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

KAZAKHSTAN REMEMBERS KUNAEV. Members of Kazakhstan's intelligentsia and NGOs gathered in Almaty on 10 January to commemorate the 90th anniversary that day of the birth of Dinmukhammed Kunaev, a former first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Kunaev's ouster in December 1986 triggered mass protests in Almaty; he spent the last years of his life under virtual house arrest. Neither Kunaev's erstwhile protege, current President Nursultan Nazarbaev, nor any other members of the present political elite attended the commemoration with the exception of former ambassador Murat Auezov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

WHAT NOW FOR KOSOVA'S PRESIDENCY? Ibrahim Rugova failed to win the presidency in two rounds of legislative voting on 10 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He received 50 votes in the first round -- when he needed 81 votes to win -- and 51 in the second, when just 61 votes would have given him the top office. The problem was that he and the leaders of the two next-largest ethnic Albanian parties -- Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj -- were unable or unwilling to cut a power-sharing deal. Thaci's and Haradinaj's supporters boycotted the vote. Speculation now centers on the possibility of a dark-horse compromise candidate, such as veteran publisher Veton Surroi. Rugova's supporters may be very reluctant to see anyone but their leader in that office, however. He campaigned last November on the slogan: "President Rugova. Who else?" But the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" suggests that some of his followers have become impatient with his "autocratic" leadership. The daily blames Rugova for the breakdown in talks with Haradinaj and Thaci. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

ARRESTED PARLIAMENTARIAN APPEALS TO PRESIDENT. Kyrgyz parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov wrote on 12 January to President Askar Akaev asking him to intervene to ensure that legal norms are observed in the investigation into his case, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Beknazarov is accused of failing to file criminal charges for murder against Djaparaly Kamychbekov, who killed a man in self-defense in 1995. Meanwhile, two more Kyrgyz parliament deputies have joined supporters of Beknazarov who declared a hunger strike last week to protest his arrest and demand his release. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January)

PROTESTS OVER BEKNAZAROV'S ARREST. Several human rights activists began a hunger strike in Bishkek on 10 January to protest the arrest of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Plans to convene an emergency session of the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of parliament) to discuss Beknazarov's case failed as only 34 deputies were present, six fewer than the 40 minimum required for a quorum, but Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev repeated to the 34 deputies present that Beknazarov's arrest was not politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

PRESIDENT EXTENDS MORATORIUM ON DEATH PENALTY. President Akaev signed a decree on 11 January extending for a further 12 months the moratorium on implementation of the death penalty first announced in 1998, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Under a new program on human rights that Akaev signed on 2 January, the death penalty is to be abolished by 2010. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

LATVIA REJECTS RUSSIAN CRITICISM OF PROSECUTING EX-SOVIET OFFICIALS. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vilmars Henins declared on 14 January that Latvia categorically rejects the regular reproaches by Russia over the criminal prosecution of World War II veterans in Latvia, and regards them as interference in the internal affairs of a foreign country, BNS reported. The statement came in response to the recent charges made by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko that "Latvian authorities have stepped up legal prosecution of antifascist veterans, causing quite grounded concern." Yakovenko said that such "investigation is biased, antifascist soldiers are presented as 'occupants,' and Hitlerite minions as 'freedom fighters.'" In December, the Latvian Prosecutor's Office opened three more criminal cases over possible genocide against the Latvian population by former officials of the State Security Ministry in 1949, but no charges have been filed thus far. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBELS 'REACTIVATING?' AP reported from Tetovo on 11 January that it has received a communique from what claims to be the disbanded National Liberation Army (UCK). The authors said the Macedonian authorities have not respected the 13 August Ohrid peace agreement and "completely ignored it." It is not clear exactly what provisions of the agreement the authors of the text have in mind. They added, "We [warn the] Slav Macedonians' police and military forces that we will take no responsibility for their security." The authors stressed that "as of today, [we] are forced to declare that we have no commitment toward the agreement whatsoever. We have proven that we can fight for our rights." It is not clear who the authors are, or if the text is genuine. There has been no official reaction from the government or from known guerrilla leaders. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

PROTESTS IN CHISINAU AGAINST COMPULSORY RUSSIAN CLASSES... Over 5,000 people protested in central Chisinau on 9 January against the introduction of compulsory Russian classes in schools, Flux reported. The protests were organized by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD). The protesters adopted a declaration that calls on the government to cancel an Education Ministry decision on imposing compulsory Russian classes. It also requests the government to withdraw its initiative of proclaiming Russian as the country's second official language, to break off the recently adopted basic treaty with Russia, and to initiate a new "nondiscriminatory and mutually advantageous" treaty. Some 2,000 people participated in a meeting organized by the opposition Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) on 10 January, and that party's chairman, Iurie Rosca, said the protests will continue "until the final fall of communism" in Moldova. Participants chanted anticommunist and antipresidential slogans. Meanwhile, Chisinau police asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to take measures against PPCD deputies for organizing the illegal protests. The PPCD had requested authorization for their meeting in front of the government's building, but the Chisinau Mayor's Office proposed another venue for the meeting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 and 11 January)

...WHILE GOVERNMENT SHOWS SIGNS OF RETREAT. In response to the protests, Premier Vasile Tarlev said the government may re-examine the Education Ministry's decision on introducing compulsory Russian classes, Flux reported. He also expressed his readiness to hold talks with the protesters. Education Minister Ilie Vancea said he does not rule out canceling the order, but that such a decision can only be taken at a 15 January meeting of the ministry's leadership. He also said he might resign from his post, should protests grow in intensity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

PREMIER PROMISES U.S. JEWS THAT POLAND WILL RESOLVE PROPERTY RESTITUTION ISSUES. Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who is currently visiting the United States, met in New York on 10 January with representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, PAP reported. "We do not want to consign to oblivion the issue of property return; we want to resolve it at least in part," Miller declared in his speech at the meeting. Miller noted that the property restitution bill passed by the previous Polish parliament and subsequently vetoed by the president was "unrealistic and unfair." Jewish leaders asked Miller to set up a permanent channel for talks between individuals making property claims and the Polish government. Miller said in response that government official Lech Nikolski will be responsible for maintaining permanent contacts with former property owners and for discussing with them the property restitution act that is being prepared by the Sejm. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO COMMEMORATE DEMOLISHED MONUMENT TO SOVIET ARMY. The municipal government of the city of Kutno, central Poland, has decided to place a commemorative plaque at the site of the monument to the brotherhood of the Polish People's Army and the Red Army dismantled in 1990, Polish Radio reported on 10 January. This is the first decision of this kind in Poland concerning the commemoration of a dismantled monument glorifying the Soviet army. The Kutno Municipal Council decided in 1990 to erect a monument to Marshal Jozef Pilsudski at the site, but has failed to collect appropriate funding. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

LIST OF SECURITATE AGENTS RELEASED. Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu, the initiator of the Law on Securitate Files, has released a list naming some 1,000 former collaborators of the dreaded communist secret police, the Securitate, Adevarul reported on 10 January. The list contains names of Securitate officers and employees, as well as judges, prosecutors, and policemen who collaborated with the Securitate. The list also contains over 100 nicknamed informers, and Ticu called on the Romanian Information Service to release the records with the real names of those informers. He said in the first months following the December 1989 regime change, some 80,000 Securitate files were destroyed. Ticu also made accusations that the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) was subjected to political pressure by those wishing to prevent the naming of former Securitate agents. In response, CNSAS Secretary Constantin Buchet denied any political pressures on the institution, saying Romanians had easy access to their own files. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

PREMIER LAUNCHES ANTICORRUPTION CAMPAIGN WITHIN THE INTERIOR MINISTRY. Adrian Nastase said on 8 January that the fight against corruption has to be based on "sound institutions" and improved "legal framework," Romanian Radio reported. He said the government will support the ministry in combating corruption, most importantly within the Interior Ministry itself. Nastase and Interior Minister Ioan Rus analyzed the ministry's activities over the past year as well as its plans for 2002. At the end of 2001, Nastase launched a campaign focusing on eliminating corruption from the justice and financial-banking systems. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

REPORT SAYS ROMANIAN ROMA DISCRIMINATED AGAINST 'ON A LARGE SCALE.' A Council of Europe report released on 10 January said the Roma minority in Romania faces police brutality and "large-scale discrimination," Mediafax reported. The Roma are victims of police brutality "much more often than persons belonging to other minorities or the majority," the report states. The Roma encounter difficulties in gaining access to education and work, and some media outlets use negative stereotypes in relation to them. The report also notes that the Romanian government recently launched a national strategy in an effort to improve the situation of the Roma and halt discrimination against them. The report is the result of a June 2001 visit by members of the Framework Convention on National Minorities' Consultative Committee. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

PUTIN LOOKS TO HISTORIANS FOR NATIONAL IDEAS. In the first days of the new year, President Vladimir Putin met behind closed doors in the Kremlin with groups of historians specializing in ancient Rus to gain insight into how to form a national ideology, "Versiya," No. 1, reported. According to the investigative weekly, Putin asked the scientists to outline the most important events in the history of ancient Rus, and to answer the questions such as: "What Russian city can be considered as the historical and cultural center of Russian civilization?" and "How, based on the historical forms of Russian statehood, can one formulate the modern Russian national idea?" The weekly said the historians advised the president to look for clues in more recent history. Meanwhile, "Sobesednik," No. 1, commented that Putin has modeled himself after Tsar Nicolas I, who ruled from 1825 to 1855 with draconian discipline but enjoyed considerable popular support. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

DUMA DRAFTS BILL ON COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR TERRORISM. A group of State Duma deputies from Unity, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia have drafted a bill on the material responsibility of terrorists' family members for damages resulting from terrorist acts, RosBalt reported on 10 January. Under the proposed bill, those who are aware of the preparation of terrorist acts by a member of their family would be responsible for paying financial compensation to the victims of the act if it is carried out, and the amount will be defined in closed-door trial proceedings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

U.S. SLAMS RUSSIAN BRUTALITY IN CHECHNYA. Speaking at a press briefing in Washington on 10 January, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher expressed concern that Russian troops resorted to "overwhelming force against civilian targets" and committed human rights violations during recent fighting in the village of Tsotan-Yurt and the town of Argun, Reuters reported. "Die Welt" on 11 January quoted Chechen human rights activists as saying that drunken Russian soldiers massacred at least 80 Chechen civilians during the fighting in Tsotan-Yurt in early January, which was the fiercest in several months. Boucher also expressed concern that Moscow has not followed up on initial talks last November between presidential envoy to the Southern federal district Viktor Kazantsev and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's representative Akhmed Zakaev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

RUSSIAN TROOPS PULL OUT OF ARGUN... Russian military units began withdrawing on 8 January from the town of Argun east of Grozny where they began an operation five days earlier to detain Chechen militants, Russian agencies reported. A military spokesman admitted that the remaining Chechen fighters had succeeded in escaping from the town. Thirteen residents detained in the course of the operation have not yet been released. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

...AS LOCAL RESIDENTS STAGE PROTEST. Also on 8 January, several hundred residents of Argun gathered in front of the local administration building to demand that the Russian troops end their search (the fifth in six months, according to "Izvestiya" on 8 January) and withdraw, and that the ban on transportation to and from the town be lifted. Chechen Prosecutor-General Vsevolod Chernov said the same day that no violations of the law took place during the six-day security sweep, which Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov argued was necessary because Chechen gunmen "constantly shoot at military and civilian convoys and at cars belonging both to officials and civilians." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

LAWYERS DEMAND SUTYAGIN'S RELEASE FROM CUSTODY. The lawyers of Igor Sutyagin, the researcher from the Institute of USA and Canada who has been accused of espionage for "a NATO country" have appealed the verdict of a Kaluga court that decided to further investigate the case, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 January. In the appeal, the lawyers requested Sutyagin's release from custody during the period of investigation on the grounds that the court itself found procedural and legal violations on the part of investigators. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

ACTIVISTS ACROSS RUSSIA PROTEST PASKO CASE. Following a demonstration in Lyubyanka Square in central Moscow the previous day, around 30 activists in Nizhnii Novgorod picketed the local office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 8 January to protest the recent conviction of former military journalist Grigorii Pasko for espionage, Interfax reported. Similar actions were held in other Russian cities, including Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Murmansk, Chelyabinsk, Birobidzhan, Volgodonsk, Novocherkassk, Rostov-na-Donu, and Yaroslavl, according to Askhat Kayumov, the chairman of Nizhnii Novgorod's ecological center "Dront." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS U.S. OFFICIALS' PRESENCE AT PASKO PICKET. The Foreign Ministry on 14 January sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Embassy protesting what it called "inadmissible actions by members of the staff of the U.S. Consulate-General in Vladivostok," RIA-Novosti reported. The ministry complained that U.S. Consul-General James Shumaker and political consul Alexander Hamilton attended a 10 January picket protesting the recent prison sentence handed down to former military journalist and environmental activist Grigorii Pasko. According to AFP, the ministry warned that it may take "corresponding" measures, the nature of which it did not specify. According to RIA-Novosti, the U.S. Consulate-General reported that the two embassy officials were merely "observers" at the protest rather than participants. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

FORMER RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT FAILS TO SWAY COURT IN APPEAL OF ESPIONAGE SENTENCE... The Russian Supreme Court on 9 January rejected former diplomat Valentin Moiseev's appeal against a guilty verdict for passing Russian state secrets to South Korea over several years, RFE/RL's Russian Service and reported. As a result, Moiseev must serve a 4 1/2-year prison term handed down last August. Moiseev, the former deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's First Asian Department, was arrested on 4 July 1998 on charges of passing secret documents to the South Korean secret services. Moiseev argued that he merely provided a copy of a speech he was planning to make at an open conference in South Korea. In 1999, a Moscow court found Moiseev guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment, which was reduced to 4 1/2 years on 14 August 2001. Following the latest decision, Moiseev's lawyer, Ksenia Kostromina, said she will no longer attempt to appeal to Russia courts, and will take the case to the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg, NTV reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

...AS COMMENTATOR TRIES TO GRASP LOGIC OF RUSSIAN LAW ENFORCEMENT. Political journalist Sergei Mitrofanov wrote on on 9 January that the arrests and release from custody of prominent personalities in the past year have evolved into part of the political life in today's Russia. He noted that it is remarkable that while so-called "spies" like Grigorii Pasko and Moiseev remain in prison, reputed wheeler-dealers and practitioners of corruption such as diamond dealer Andrei Kozlyonok and former Kremlin facilities directorate head Pavel Borodin are free. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

VORONEZH FSB ACCUSED OF COLLECTING KOMPROMAT ON LOCAL LEGISLATORS. Deputies in the Legislative Assembly of the city of Voronezh have accused the mayor of that city compiling files of compromising materials about each of them, NTV reported on 9 January. One deputy told the network that Mayor Aleksandr Kovalev's chief of staff, who also happens to be the former director of the Voronezh FSB directorate, told the deputies that the materials will be made public if they continue to criticize the mayor. And another deputy said that Kovalev himself admitted to having ordered the investigations because he needed the materials to properly assess their work. However, the current spokesman for the FSB directorate denied that his office has ever been authorized to conduct such investigations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES ARRIVES IN RUSSIA. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers arrived in Moscow on 15 January on a four-day visit, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Lubbers' program includes meetings with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, as well as visiting camps for displaced persons from Chechnya in neighboring Ingushetia. This visit occurs as the debate in Russia is focusing increasingly on Russian victims of the war, rather than on refugees. This is the first trial of military officers since the beginning of the second war in Chechnya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

SCANDAL PLUS ETHNIC INCITEMENT IN YAKUTSK. As voters in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic prepare to go to the polls on 13 January to vote in the second round of presidential elections, a new scandal has broken out in Yakutsk. Swiss citizen Adel Gromov and former republican Finance Minister Sergei Yanygin were arrested on 9 January by police on suspicion of large-scale swindling, Interfax reported on 10 January. Gromov is suspected of attempting to sell $100 million worth of invalid Sakha government bonds with Yanygin's assistance, according to TV-6. Meanwhile, reported on 8 January that some Yakutsk residents have again begun receiving campaign pamphlets in their mailboxes designed to incite ethnic hatred. For example, one brochure signed by a group calling itself the "Russian Imperial Battalion" declares: "Our Shtyrov -- This is the beginning of our war for a Russian Yakutia." Alrosa President Vyacheslav Shtyrov is a favorite in the race. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

GOVERNMENT DRAFTS BILL ON ALTERNATIVE SERVICE. The government has prepared a draft bill on alternative service to compulsory military duty based primarily on the proposals of the General Staff and the Defense Ministry, reported on 9 January. According to the bill, those who do not want to serve in the army still can be conscripted, but will be given the option of serving in noncombat roles. The four-year terms for alternative service will be one year longer than that of conventional military duty. In addition, the bill rejected a proposal that called for candidates to be able to serve close to their place of residence. According to the document, alternative civil service should be extraterritorial; i.e., a draftee can be sent to any area in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

'GOLDEN ADA' EMBEZZLER RELEASED FROM MOSCOW PRISON. Andrei Kozlyonok, one of the diamond traders who was convicted last year of embezzling Russian government funds through the San Francisco-based Golden ADA front company in the early 1990's, was freed from a Moscow prison on 8 January, Russian news services reported. Kozlyonok was sentenced last year to six years in prison for his role in embezzling $187 million worth of state funds via the diamond- and gold-trading company in a high-profile trial that implicated several top officials from the Yeltsin administration. However, Kozlyonok's sentence was reduced in November 2001 to four years, and he was released because his time spent in pretrial detention was subtracted from the prison term. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

MOSCOW COURT REFUSES TO ORDER PROBE INTO THEFT OF NEARLY 6 BILLION RUBLES. The Moscow City Court has thrown out as illegal the verdict of a court of lower instance to further investigate the fate of 5.8 billion rubles ($160 million) that disappeared from the assets of the Central Bank, reported on 8 January. As a result of the decision, the criminal case against Aleksandr Alekseev, the head of the Moscow branch of the Central Bank who was accused of siphoning funds, has been suspended. According to the news website, the Moscow court found no crime in Alekseev's actions, only negligence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

TAX POLICE: 60 PERCENT OF BUSINESS ENTITIES FAIL TO PAY TAXES. Viktor Vasiliev, the head of the Moscow office of the Federal Tax Police Service (FSNP), told RosBalt on 8 January that 60 percent of Russian enterprises, companies, and institutions do not pay taxes or other obligatory duties, and thus constitute a "shadow segment of the national economy." In some sectors, such as automobile servicing, for example, the level of the illegal revenues exceeds 80 percent. Vasiliev told the online news agency that through research and practical experience the FSNP has found that most tax crimes are committed in the energy sector, credit and financial institutions, real estate, consumer trade, and export-import operations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

TATAR FOUNDER OF LIBERAL ISLAM SUBJECT OF INTEREST. Timur Akulov, the head of Tatarstan's presidential Foreign Affairs Department, told reporters on 8 January that the interim Afghan government is also interested in learning more about Jadid Islam, a secularized religious school of thought established by the Tatar intelligentsia in the late 19th century, reported RFE/RL's Tatar Service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

REGIONS LEFT SCRAMBLING TO MEET ORDERED WAGE HIKE. "Nizhegorodskie novosti" reported on 9 January that 82 of Russia's 89 federation subjects have been put in a tough situation by President Putin's decision to raise the wages of state sectors workers. At a press conference in Nizhnii Novgorod last month, Governor Gennadii Khodyrev said his oblast was only able to raise teachers' and doctors' wages in December with help from the federal Finance Ministry, and in January it will be even more difficult to make wage payments because tax receipts are typically low at the beginning of the year. However, one local foreign-language teacher, Olga Shchitova, told the daily that her wages in December turned out to be lower than November's. And a nurse at local hospital going by the name "Anna B" reported that she received no wages at all in December. According to Anna B, rumors are circulating at her hospital that wages will not be raised before March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

TEACHERS GO ON HUNGER STRIKE FOR WAGES TO BUY FIREWOOD TO HEAT THEIR HOMES. Seven teachers in the village of Boguslavskoe in Primorskii Krai have declared a hunger strike because they have not received wages since October 2001, reported on 14 January. The teachers say that they do not have enough money to buy firewood, which is a necessity since many live in private homes, according to the website. The teachers have sent an e-mail to President Putin explaining their plight, but are not confident that he will receive it. In Sverdlovsk Oblast, some 200 teachers at five schools in the Alapaevskii raion went on strike. They are demanding both that their wages be paid and that they be raised. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)

SACKED BANK WORKERS STAGE PROTEST. Some 1,000 of the 8,500 employees who lost their jobs recently when Yugoslav National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic closed Serbian's four largest banks called for Dinkic's resignation at a protest rally in Belgrade on 10 January, Reuters reported. Protesters chanted: "Resign! Resign," "Treason," and "Thieves!" A union leader charged that Dinkic is a coward for not appearing before the crowd. One woman said: "I am 51, my daughter is seven, I worked 32 years in the bank -- and now they tell me to seek a new job. Who is going to take me at this age?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

REPUBLIKA SRPSKA MARKS 10TH ANNIVERSARY. Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic said in Banja Luka on 8 January that "we accept Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state. We have accepted it because we got the Republika Srpska [as part of the 1995 Dayton agreement]. The interests of the Serbian people [have been satisfied] through Dayton, [by creating] a functional and decentralized state" consisting of the Republika Srpska and the Croat-Muslim federation, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. He added: "Looking back, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Our way was the right way, and we would do it the same way if we had to again." Sarovic stressed that "we must turn to real patriotism to avoid future problems stemming from the abuse of power by aggressive patriotism." The Republika Srpska marks the anniversary of its founding on 9 January 1992 as an official holiday. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

FORMER STRONGMAN IN THE DOCK IN THE HAGUE. Slobodan Milosevic made his final pretrial appearance in a Hague courtroom on 9 January, Reuters reported. His trial for crimes against humanity in Kosova is scheduled to open on 12 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 January)

GOVERNMENT APPROVES LAWS ON WAR, MARTIAL LAW, MILITARY STRUCTURE, AND NATIONAL EMERGENCIES. Ministers approved four key draft constitutional amendments on military, legislative, and executive responses to emergency situations, including war, TASR-Slovakia and CTK reported on 10 January. The legislation must still be approved by the parliament. Defense Minister Jozef Stank called the amendments long overdue, saying they should have been among the first priorities after Slovakia was established in 1993, TASR said. One of the drafts provides for a Parliamentary Council and a Security Council headed by the prime minister to assume legislative and executive powers. The draft Act on Slovakia's Defense defines local and regional powers. The Act on Military Forces specifies the military's structure, goals, and command and control, along with guidelines for use of soldiers in the event of natural disasters. The Conscription Act limits a potential call-up to citizens under 55 years of age, rather than the current 60. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

SLOVAKIA TO EMULATE CZECH EXAMPLE ON COMPENSATION FOR HOLOCAUST VICTIMS? Deputy Premier Pal Csaky told journalists on 11 January that he hopes a "breakthrough" will be achieved in 2002 on the still unsolved problem of compensating Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Slovakia, CTK reported. He said he will submit a proposal to the government in March or April and that before doing that he intends to study the "Czech model" for compensating Holocaust victims. Csaky heads a governmental commission set up last year to deal with the matter. In July 2000, a fund was established in the Czech Republic for that purpose. The fund is managed by the Federation of Jewish Communities and the government provided 300 million Czech crowns (some $8.3 million) for the purpose of compensating survivors of the Holocaust and for paying compensation for property that was confiscated and can no longer be returned. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 January)

BAPTIST PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE RELEASED. Turkmenistan's best-known prisoner of conscience, Baptist Shageldy Atakov, was released from prison on 8 January, several months before his four-year prison term on what are generally regarded as fabricated charges of swindling was due to expire, Keston News Service reported on 10 January. Atakov has been reunited with his family in the town of Kaakha close to the Turkmen-Iranian border but has not yet been given a formal certificate of release from prison, nor have his identity papers been returned to him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

PARLIAMENT ADOPTS BILL ON POLICE STRENGTH. The parliament passed a bill on 10 January establishing the total number of employees working at the Interior Ministry at 386,600 people, UNIAN reported. This figure does not include the ministry-subordinated internal troops for which the numerical strength was set at 44,000. The same day parliament considered some 70 draft laws, but voted against reverting to the CD antipiracy bill that was voted down in December. A totally new bill is to be submitted for consideration on 11 January, New Channel Television reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

PROSECUTORS TO PROBE FOREIGN ACCOUNTS OF SIX LAWMAKERS. The Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation into the opening of foreign bank accounts by six Ukrainian legislators, Interfax reported on 11 January, quoting a letter by Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets to parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch. The lawmakers suspected of illegally opening bank accounts in Switzerland are: Oleksandr Volkov, Ihor Bakay, Pavlo Ryabkin, Oleksiy Kucherenko, Kostyantin Zhevaho, and Volodymyr Satsyuk. The investigation was opened following a motion by lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak. Last month, Omelchenko and Yermak demanded explanations from the Prosecutor-General's Office about an Internet report alleging that Swiss police had blocked some 200 bank accounts belonging to Russian and Ukrainian companies and citizens. The report mentioned the six Ukrainian lawmakers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)

EUROPEAN COMMISSION URGES SLOVAK, HUNGARIAN AGREEMENT OVER STATUS LAW... A spokesman for the European Union's executive body reiterated that the EC expects Hungary's contentious Status Law to be "applied in close cooperation with Hungary's neighbors," TASR-Slovakia reported on 9 January amid ongoing talks between Bratislava and Budapest. "We welcome Budapest's agreement with Romania, but that is not all. We expect and really hope that an agreement will be reached between Hungary and Slovakia," Jean-Christophe Filori said. Executive regulation of the law must comply with last year's recommendations by the so-called Venice Commission, the agency quoted him as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

...BUT BRATISLAVA, BUDAPEST REMAIN IN A STALEMATE. Slovak Deputy Foreign Minister Jaroslav Chlebo stressed after meeting with a Hungarian delegation in Bratislava that his country rejected "the principle of extraterritoriality," Reuters reported on 9 January. Chlebo was speaking after presenting Hungarian government representatives with "our clear stance...that Slovakia be excluded from [the impact of] the [Status] Law," the agency reported. Slovak officials said no foreign laws will interfere with their own laws and called for exclusion from the Status Law, dashing the hopes of any who thought Slovakia would accept a compromise pact similar to that signed by Romania in December. Chlebo added that his country may introduce measures to prevent the effects of the law in Slovakia, but did not specify what those steps might be. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 January)

CALL FOR END TO 'DOUBLE STANDARDS' IN COMBATING TERRORISM. An extraordinary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held on 7 January in Beijing, where the foreign ministers of the six member states discussed expanding its role in combating international terrorism and raising its profile as a regional security organization. At the same time, member states (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) strengthened their hands as they seek ways to crack down on their own domestic dissidents and opponents with impunity. The conference adopted an approach to terrorism that explicitly linked it to separatism and Islamist extremism and, in a joint communique, justified that approach by analogy with the U.S.-led coalition's campaign against Afghanistan. The pledge by SCO member states, contained in the joint communique, to expand their role in the U.S.-led antiterrorist coalition could be seen as unexceptional in itself, even positive. But its insistence that "the fight against terrorism should be carried out on all levels -- globally, regionally, and nationally -- free of bias and with no double standards" may have disturbing overtones. Its ramifications become clearer when coupled with remarks by Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan's on 7 January. He said that all six SCO member states are "supportive of the positions and efforts respectively of China concerning East Turkestan [Uighur] terrorists and of Russia concerning Chechen terrorists, and regard these efforts as part and parcel of the international fight against terrorism." The bias and double standards alluded to relate, presumably, to the West's (particularly America's) penchant for criticizing Russia and China for their use of force and summary justice to crack down on their own home-grown terrorists, while the U.S.-led coalition has allegedly acted in identical fashion against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In fact, the joint declaration deliberately drew an analogy between the conflict in Afghanistan and the presence of "terrorism, separatism, and extremism" within the SCO nations, AFP said. In short, the communique uses the logic of Western intervention in Afghanistan to argue for giving Eurasian nations a free hand in suppressing renegades at home without outside interference. Western human rights organizations sent notes to SCO delegations in Beijing reminding them of their commitments to uphold their citizens' individual freedoms under international law and as members of standard-setting organizations such as the OSCE. Observers have expressed concern that SCO governments, especially in Moscow, Beijing, and Tashkent, are trying to give themselves (and one another) carte blanche to brand disgruntled minorities or political opponents as terrorists and use that as a pretext for neutralizing them. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 10 January)


By Adam Albion

Protesting the long delay by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in finalizing their border demarcation, the villages of Baghys and Turkestanets, whose national status remains uncertain, symbolically declared sovereignty just before the New Year, AFP and Interfax reported on 4 January. About 500 of the 2,000 inhabitants of the two villages, which are predominantly ethnically Kazakh, rallied to announce their independence, elect a 10-strong parliament, and choose an elderly schoolmaster as president. This exercise in local democracy was quickly broken up by Uzbek police, AFP said. A curfew has since been imposed on both villages.

According to a 4 January press release by Kazakhstan's United Democratic Party (UDP) -- a coalition of the opposition Azamat Party, the People's Congress, and the Republican People's Party -- there had been no mention of the villagers' actions and arrests by Kazakh media, with the single exception of a special correspondent of Radio Azattyk ("Freedom"). But Kazakh TV on the same day said that the Foreign Ministry in the nation's capital, Astana, in response to press reports about the incident, issued a statement that border negotiations with Tashkent were proceeding smoothly and warned that stunts like the one at Baghys/Turkestanets could only hinder progress with the Uzbek side.

A treaty of 16 November 2001 established 96 percent of the border between the two countries. Three sections of the frontier totaling 60 kilometers have been left in limbo -- the two villages and the Arnasai region -- on which officials have said that agreement should be reached by this summer. According to some local Kazakh news sources, the villagers' publicity-grabbing protests were prompted less by vague frustration at the slow pace of talks on border delineation than by a very real fear that they might become a part of Uzbekistan. The UDP press release of 4 January tried to explain why this border delineation was such an emotive issue. It noted that in 1956 Nikita Khrushchev awarded Uzbekistan a large slice of southern Kazakhstan as a gift, amounting to 200,000 hectares and including the two disputed villages, which the Uzbeks used as a military training ground. That act of caprice would be matched by a similarly irresponsible act, UDP suggested, if Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev decided to let the Uzbeks keep the disputed territory without any public discussion or transparency in decision-making. Consequently, the UDP called on the Kazakh parliament and international organizations such as the OSCE to participate in the negotiations.

The mass gathering at Baghys and Turkestanets on 28 December was organized by Oral Saulebay, one of the leaders of Kazakhstan's Azat movement and chairman of Committee on Protection of Kazakh Land. He used the occasion to publicly criticize the Kazakh and Uzbek presidents, saying the border demarcation should have been completed long before. He was duly arrested on 30 December by Uzbek police, held in the Tashkent Region Internal Affairs Department jail, and charged with "organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering" under Chapter 154 of the Uzbek Criminal Code. To this was later added the charge of insulting the dignity and honor of the Kazakh and Uzbek presidents. Interrogated by Uzbek officials, Saulebay began a hunger strike on 1 January to demand that Kazakh representatives be present at the interrogations.

On 4 January, leaders of Kazakhstan's UDP gave a press conference at which they urged the Uzbek authorities to release Saulebay and demanded a meeting between Presidents Nazarbaev and Islam Karimov to resolve the border issue as quickly as possible. The previous evening, a group of about 20 persons calling themselves the Committee for the Release of Oral Saulebay picketed the Uzbek Embassy in Almaty.

Saulebay was finally extradited to Kazakhstan on 4 January, AP reported the following day. But instead of being released, as expected, he was being held in custody in an undisclosed location by officers of the Kazakh National Security Committee (former KGB). As of 8 January, his precise whereabouts were unknown.

Saulebay's saga is curiously and depressingly similar to the parallel, ongoing case in Kyrgyzstan against detained parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, who has criticized Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev for trying to force through an unpopular border delimitation treaty with China.