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Asma Jahangir in 2015

Asma Jahangir, one of Pakistan's most prominent right activists and lawyers, has died at the age of 66.

Jahangir's daughter Muneeze said that the pro-democracy activist died in a hospital in the eastern city of Lahore where she had been rushed after suffering a heart attack.

Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and was president of the Supreme Court's Bar Association. She also served as a UN special rapporteur on human rights.

In a statement, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi praised Jahangir’s contributions toward upholding rule of law, democracy, and safeguarding human rights.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai described her as a "savior of democracy and human rights."

A fierce defender of democracy, Jahangir was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment and Islamic extremists.

In recent years, she was outspoken over the misuse of blasphemy laws that carry the death sentence.

She was imprisoned in 1983 for her pro-democracy activities during General Zia ul-Haq's military rule and put under house arrest in 2007 for opposing President Pervez Musharraf's removal of the Supreme Court's chief justice.

The activist and lawyer received several awards, including the French Legion of Honor and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and the BBC
Hairullo Mirsaidov

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reiterated its calls on Tajik authorities to release prominent journalist Hairullo Mirsaidov, after his pretrial detention was extended by another two months.

“Bad news from #Tajikistan: Pre-trial detention of independent journalist #KhayrulloMirsaidov is extended by another TWO MONTHS,” Steve Swerdlow, the Central Asia researcher for the New York-based rights group, wrote in a message on Twitter on February 10.

“He has been unlawfully behind bars already for over two months,” Swerdlow wrote. “This travesty of justice should end now.”

Mirsaidov was charged in December with embezzlement, forgery, false reporting to police, and inciting ethnic and religious hatred and could be sentenced to 21 years in prison if tried and convicted.

The journalist’s father, Khabibullo Mirsaidov, has told RFE/RL that his son denies the charges.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office of Soghd region told Dushanbe-based Asia-Plus news agency last week that Mirsaidov’s pretrial detention was extended at the request of the prosecutor with a view to conducting a “full and objective investigation” of the case.

Mirsaidov is an independent journalist and a former correspondent of Asia-Plus and Germany's Deutsche Welle radio.

He is also the leader of the Tajikistani national KVN comedy team, a stand-up comedy competition which originated among university students in the Soviet Union and is still popular in many post-Soviet states.

His case has drawn international attention, with London-based Amnesty International describing him as “a prisoner of conscience who is being punished solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said journalists like Mirsaidov should be recognized for the important work they do, not locked up on bogus charges.”

Mirsaidov was initially detained in his native city of Khujand on December 5, weeks after he published an open letter to President Emomali Rahmon, Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon, and Sughd region Governor Abdurahmon Qodiri asking them to crack down on corrupt local authorities.

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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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