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Tajik rights activist Shabnam Hudoidodova (file photo)

Human rights groups have called on the Tajik government to lift a "politically motivated travel ban" on an independent activist's family, and put an end to its "vicious campaign of intimidation" against dissidents' relatives.

Seven watchdogs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), said on August 7 that security services forced Shabnam Hudoidodova's 10-year-old daughter, elderly mother, and brother off an airplane at Tajikistan's main airport last week.

They were on their way to Europe to reunite with the activist, the groups said.

"The cruelty Tajik authorities have shown against this 10-year-old girl and her relatives simply for her mother’s peaceful criticism of the government is shocking," Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW said in a statement. "They should be allowed to leave Tajikistan immediately without any fear of retribution."

The statement said Tajik security service officers on August 4 boarded the plane on which Hudoidodova’s family members were waiting to depart, removed them from the flight, and banned them from traveling to Europe to reunite with the activist.

The three were interrogated for hours and forced to sign documents acknowledging that all of them, including the girl, were on a "wanted list," it added.

The move is the latest in a series of actions against Hudoidodova’s family that included violent attacks against her daughter and other relatives, the groups said.

They added that Tajik authorities have regularly detained, threatened, and banned from travel family members of other opposition activists abroad.

"Targeting dissidents' families is a new low set by the government, and an especially despicable tactic,"Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner said in the statement. "Tajikistan’s international partners, including Brussels and Washington, must make a clear call for an end to this abuse."

Hudoidodova, an activist from the Tajik political movement Group 24, was detained in Belarus for more than eight months in 2015 and 2016 under a Tajik extradition request and Interpol warrant.

After that, she stopped her political opposition work and took up human rights activism in Poland on behalf of Tajik asylum seekers there, the seven rights groups said in their joint statement.

Group 24 was officially banned in Tajikistan in October 2014 after authorities labeled it as an extremist organization.

Anton Angel was informed that a number of pictures on his VKontakte social-network account contained elements of anti-Semitism.

ZARINSK, Russia -- A fourth resident of Russia's Altai region in Siberia has been charged with inciting hatred via posts on the Internet.

Anton Angel told RFE/RL that police searched his house and his mother's house in the town of Zarinsk on August 6, confiscating his mobile phones, computers, and flash cards.

He said he was then taken to the police station where interrogators attempted to make him confess that he incited hatred on the Internet. After he refused, he was informed that a number of pictures on his VKontakte social-network account contained elements of anti-Semitism.

Angel said investigators ordered him to undergo a psychiatric examination in a clinic. He said the case against him was politically motivated and related to his civil-rights activities.

Angel is the fourth resident of the region in southern Siberia charged with extremism and inciting hatred over social-media posts.

On August 6, Maria Motuznaya, a 23-year-old resident of the region's capital, Barnaul, went on trial over social-media memes that prosecutors allege contained hate speech and insulted religious believers.

Another Barnaul resident, Daniil Markin, a 19-year-old film student, was charged with inciting hate speech over a VKontakte meme likening Jesus Christ to Jon Snow, a character in the U.S. television show Game Of Thrones.

On August 3, a 38-year-old resident of Barnaul, Andrei Shasherin, was charged with inciting hatred via posting caricatures on his account in VKontakte.

In another Siberian region, Tuva, a local journalist and civil rights activist, Oyumaa Dongak, was detained and charged with inciting hatred and propagating Nazism for placing four years ago a historical picture of young Nazi-era German women waving flags with a swastika in a post in VKontakte comparing the Soviet system with that of Nazi Germany.

Dongak wrote on Facebook that she was briefly detained on August 6 and informed that a criminal case was launched against her.

Russia's crackdown on online speech has been broadening in recent years, and rights advocates say it's intended to stifle dissent and help law enforcement officials rack up convictions.

On August 6, the Russian Internet services company Mail.Ru Group called on the authorities to change legislation criminalizing hate speech on social media and to grant amnesty to those who have been "unjustly convicted" under it.

The Mail.Ru Group, whose businesses include a popular e-mail service and a search engine, is controlled by Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

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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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