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QAPSHAGHAI, Kazakhstan -- Nine people have gone on trial for allegedly torturing an inmate in a southern Kazakh prison, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Five prison guards and four inmates are charged with torturing former army officer Zhandos Saghatov, who is serving a jail term in the town of Zarechny, in the Almaty region, for a drug-related crime.

Saghatov's lawyer, Gaukhar Salimbaeva, told RFE/RL that her client was severely beaten in the penitentiary's quarantine unit on March 20. She said Saghatov has undergone five operations since then but still has severe health problems.

Kazakh human rights organizations said the January 18 trial in Qapshaghai city court is the first time defendants have been charged with committing torture within the country's penal system.

Read in Russian here
Barys Haretski
MINSK -- Belarusian journalist Barys Haretski has been sentenced by a Minsk court to 14 days in jail for taking part in postelection demonstrations on December 19, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Haretski was detained on January 17 near the KGB headquarters in Minsk while interviewing relatives of opposition activists and their supporters who were arrested in central Minsk on December 19-20 during protests following the contentious presidential election.

He was originally accused at the Foreign Ministry of collecting material for a Polish radio station without accreditation. But those charges were changed and he was eventually found guilty of taking part in the demonstrations in December to protest the results of the presidential election that officially reelected President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to a new term.

Haretski told RFE/RL that he pleaded not guilty to the charges. He said he was on Independence Square on December 19-20 to cover the protest as a journalist, not to take part in it, and therefore the court's decision to jail him is illegal.

Read in Belarusian here

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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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