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MINSK -- An activist of the European Belarus civil campaign and an independent journalist were sentenced to jail in Minsk today for taking part in an unsanctioned rally, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Mikita Kavalenka and Alyaksandr Barazenka were detained on January 8 when Kavalenka staged a protest in front of the KGB headquarters in Minsk, demanding the release of opposition activists. Barazenka was filming the unsanctioned action as a journalist for the Belsat TV satellite channel.

The Minsk Central Court ruled that Barazenka is equally responsible for the unsanctioned public action as he has filmed similar unsanctioned actions in the past. He was given an 11-day sentence and Kavalenka will be jailed for 15 days.

Barazenka was arrested last month for filming an unsanctioned demonstration by the Ukrainian women activist group Femen, which was also staged in front of KGB headquarters.

He was released after spending several hours in custody.

Barazenka announced in the courtroom that he has started a hunger strike to protest his arrest and sentence, saying he was not participating in the protest but was filming it as part of his work as a journalist.

Activist Paval Vinahradau, who was in the courtroom during today's trial, told RFE/RL that Judge Alyaksandr Khadanovich did not even agree to summon the KGB officers who arrested Barazenka and Kavalenka to the court to testify.

Vinahradau said that is a violation of procedural regulations.

Read more in Belarusian here
Supporters Greet Esergepov As He Leaves Prison
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A journalist whose independent newspaper was shuttered after his arrest and conviction for revealing state secrets in an article alleging links between a businessman and the country's national security apparatus has left jail after serving a three-year sentence that he and rights groups say was politically motivated, according to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

Ramazan Esergepov, who founded and edited the weekly newspaper "Alma-Ata Info," was ordered to spend three years in jail in August 2009 over the article in question, called "Who Rules the Country: the President or the Kazakh National Security Committee?"

His conviction met with protests and condemnation from Freedom House and other local and international rights groups.

Supporters had gathered outside the prison in anticipation of his January 6 release and used the event to publicize the names of other jailed Kazakh journalists.

Esergepov has insisted all along that his conviction was politically motivated and vowed to campaign hard for human rights after his release.

Esergepov received Human Rights Watch's 2011 Hellman-Hammett Grant, which is awarded to writers and journalists who have been the victims of political persecution and are in financial need.

In 2009, Freedom House described Esergepov as "the latest target of an escalating government crackdown on independent media in Kazakhstan."

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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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