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George Krol
A U.S. official has called on Kazakhstan to fulfill its obligations before it assumes the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

George Krol, the deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, told journalists in Astana on October 30 that Kazakhstan
should carry out reforms it agreed to in Madrid last December.

At that time, then-Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tazhin told the other OSCE member states' foreign ministers that Astana would make progress on OSCE recommendations to change its laws on the media, namely the mitigation of responsibility for defamation and the liberalization of the registration for media outlets.

Tazhin also said then that Kazkahstan intended to liberalize laws on elections and political parties.

Kazakhstan is due to take over the chair of the OSCE on January 1.
Andrei Zatoka in an undated photograph
Prominent Turkmen environmental activist Andrei Zatoka has been sentenced to five years in prison for hooliganism, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Zatoka, 53, was found guilty in a court in Dashoguz of attacking a man in a market in the northern Turkmen city on October 20.

His supporters say he was attacked by the man and attempted to detain him until police arrived. However, police detained Zatoka instead of the man.

His supporters in Moscow held a protest in front of the Turkmen Embassy on October 27 and again on October 29, demanding his immediate release.

They said they consider Zatoka's case to be politically motivated and connected to his professional activities.

Zatoka, a biologist, has run an environmental-protection group shut down by the government in 2003.

The co-founder of the group, Farid Tukhbatullin, now lives in exile in Europe and monitors human rights abuses in Turkmenistan.

Zatoka was also detained in December 2006 and charged with possessing and dealing with in arms and dangerous substances, which Human Rights Watch said were trumped-up charges.

In January 2007, he was finally released under pressure from the international community when a court granted him a conditional release upon his pledge not to leave the country for three years.

His wife has been living in Russia since that time.

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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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