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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Third Way site down again

At this writing, Third Way's site is once again inaccessible. We haven't received any further information.

Readers will recall that the site was hacked last Saturday, apparently by the Belarusian authorities. It was restored later that day.

Update: As of 1st September, the site is back.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

 

Russia apologises to U.S. senators

From Cybercast News Service:

Russia apologized Monday to two U.S. senators who were held in an airport in the Urals for several hours after local officials refused to allow their U.S. military aircraft to depart without an inspection.

The delegation, led by Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, was held up at the Perm airport Sunday as it tried to leave Russia after visiting nuclear weapons-related facilities.

Russia's foreign ministry Monday formally apologized for the Perm incident.

"We regret that a misunderstanding has taken place and the discomfort experienced by senators," it said in a statement.

The ministry denied that the lawmakers were detained, saying the departure was instead "delayed as local border guard authorities had questions concerning some formalities and the status of the flight. After the diplomatic status of the flight was confirmed, the senators left Russia."

A slightly different interpretation came from the deputy head of the border checkpoint at the airport, Captain Maksim Zhaleyev, who told Interfax the senators were "detained" because they had refused to obey border guards' instructions.

Moscow sought to downplay the incident, which Mikhail Margelov, head of the international affairs committee of the Federation Council, said would hopefully not affect Russian-American relations.

"We know Lugar well, and he is also our colleague," Margelov added.

Some media outlets pointed out, however, that Lugar has been critical of the pace of democratization in Russia.

 

Georgian activists get 15 days in Minsk prison

From The Moscow Times:

Security officials had said Friday that they would deport two Georgian activists accused of teaching their local counterparts to stage anti-government protests similar to the demonstrations that brought down Georgia's longtime leader two years ago.

But a district court in Minsk said it had sentenced Georgy Kandelaki and Luka Tsuladze to 15 days in custody after finding them guilty of "minor hooliganism." The court refused to say what the Georgians, detained Wednesday, were accused of doing.

A Belarussian opposition activist, Dmitry Bondarenko, claimed that the Georgians were beaten and that the sentences were imposed to keep them in custody until their wounds heal. He said authorities often take similar measures against Belarussian opposition protesters.

 

Georgian channel's future uncertain

From The Messenger:

While the court process and discussion of a founder and presenter of 202 TV Shalva Ramishvili was the headline news Monday, some Tbilisi residents questioned what would happen to channel's programs and to the channel itself.

Founded in 2002, the station took a low-budget approach to producing analytical and often satirical news shows. According to the monthly television rankings by AGB Georgia, as of June the station was the sixth most popular station in Tbilisi, ranking between two musical channels Evrika-Maestro and First Stereo.

"Maybe they did not have some modern technology and live reporting, but the Debates [the weekly political talk show] themselves were interesting," said Nino Mumladze who works in an NGO and has a background in journalism.

"I think the society has the right to have a free and independent media and of course, it would be sad if I am deprived of the opportunity to watch the programs like the investigative pieces on 202," Mumladze told The Messenger.

The station's Debates show broadcast this Sunday though with another presenter who analyzed the arrest of Ramishvili. A self-described "frequent" viewer of Debates, Nino Veshapidze said Monday she fears that the program will soon be terminated and there will be no chance for the opposition to discuss the latest events on television.

The channel was founded in 2002 by a group of Georgian humorists who worked
at the Georgian radio station Radio 101 and on an animated series Dardubala criticizing the ex-president of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze.


A hearing on Monday ended with Ramishvili being sentenced to three months' pre-trial detention. Civil Georgia reports:


At a pre-trial hearing Shalva Ramishvili, who claimed innocence, made the first statement after he was arrested on August 27.

“Firstly, I have never blackmailed or extorted money from Koba Bekauri. On the contrary, for past three months Bekauri had been mounting pressure on me and on my friends through blackmail and threats, saying that this film [which included compromising materials against Bekauri] should not be broadcasted. There are many persons, who know about it and have witnessed this fact. This will be proved by an impartial investigation,” Shalva Ramishvili said.

Tina Khidasheli, a legal expert and the member of opposition Republican Party has already stated that she has witnessed “for several times” who MP Bekauri was calling Ramishvili and asking him not to air investigative reporting about his activities. “Shalva [Ramishvili] was very angry and was telling him [Bekauri] not to call him anymore,” Khidasheli said.

In his statement during the pre-trial hearing Ramishvili also revealed a new detail in the case.

“At the same time, my and Bekauri’s common friend contacted me and offered to take money in exchange for blocking the film. I have no doubt about the honesty of this person, who is very important for my future fate. This person is the owner of the apartment where the money was arrested,” Ramishvili said, though he did not specify the name of the person.

“Now about why I agreed to take money and what the society has watched [on a footage shot by the police hidden camera]: when Bekauri’s actions went beyond the limit, I, in agreement with [Vakhtang] Komakhidze [journalist from the organization “Reporter” producing investigative reporting about Bekauri], decided to shoot footage by hidden camera showing how much Koba Bekauri would pay to prevent the airing of a compromising material,” Shalva Ramishvili said.

Ramishvili said that he has become a victim of his “badly planned investigation.”

 

Uzbek activist arrested for distributing leaflets

From The Guardian:

Uzbek authorities arrested a member of an outlawed opposition party for allegedly distributing anti-government leaflets, her party said Monday.

Human rights activist Elena Urlayeva, a member of the banned Free Peasants party, was detained Saturday in the capital, Tashkent. A police official said Urlayeva had been trying to spread anti-government drawings and organize a protest.

Urlayeva - a harsh critic of President Islam Karimov's authoritarian regime - has been subjected in the past to repeated beatings and detentions, and was twice hospitalized by authorities for psychiatric treatment.

Her detention comes amid a fresh wave of arrests among rights activists and independent journalists, following an anti-government uprising in May in the eastern city of Andijan that was brutally suppressed by government troops, with hundreds of civilians killed.

Monday, August 29, 2005

 

'Deported' Georgians haven't come home

From Charter 97:

Until now the fate and location of the citizens of Georgia detained several days ago, Luka Tsuladze and Georgi Kandelaki, is unknown. Ombudsman of Georgia, Sozar Subaru, told to the Charter’97 press-center, that activists of Georgian movement “Kmara” did not arrive on Saturday to Tbilisi, as expected. This information was confirmed in the Tbilisi Institute of Freedom. Meanwhile, Belarusian official personalities do not give any information about the fate of the detained Georgian citizens.

Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili at a press-conference in Kazan on Saturday expressed his concern over the detention of Georgian citizens in Belarus. As said by the Georgian leader, for several days neither Georgian nor Ukrainian consul, who had been asked for help by Georgian officials, has been allowed to visit the detainees.

 

West let Uzbekistan get away with murder

This week's Economist has a scathing leader about the West's response -- or lack thereof -- to the Andijan massacre:


ON MAY 13th, the authorities in Uzbekistan opened fire on a peaceful demonstration of close to 10,000 people in the eastern city of Andijan, probably killing several hundred of them and possibly as many as 1,000. According to survivors, tanks rolled through the main square, firing indiscriminately, snipers picked off their victims from convenient buildings, and, later on, soldiers shot some of the wounded dead. That was three months ago. Since then, the European Union and America have expressed their horror at the worst massacre of demonstrators since Tiananmen Square by imposing the following sanctions on Uzbekistan:

1.

2.

3.


Read the whole thing.

 

Ukraine: Skinheads critically injure Jewish student

From MosNews:

A group of ten skinheads attacked two yeshiva students in Kiev, Ukraine on Sunday, critically wounding one of them, Haaretz newspaper reported Monday quoting Israel Radio.

Rabbi Yaakov Zilberman, head of Kiev’s Jewish community, said the skinheads approached the two in an underground tunnel in the city center and attacked them with bottles, rods and knives.

The critically wounded student, 28, underwent surgery late Sunday.


The victim's name doesn't seem to have been released.

 

Most Russians afraid of police

From The Moscow Times:

The majority of Russians are afraid of the police according to a survey cited by a respected daily on Monday.
Izvestia wrote that the survey, which was conducted by the Levada Center, showed that 75% of the respondents feared the police. Moreover, the number of people who said they were afraid of falling victim to arbitrary treatment at the hands of the police had increased 5% in recent months.
The police, in return, cited a poll from the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM). "Only" 41% of respondents said they feared violence committed by law enforcement bodies. FOM experts, who are often referred to as Kremlin-backed, made a reservation that "more than half of residents of Moscow and other large cities, with a population of more than a million people, fear police." Nearly 60% of respondents said violence was a common practice in the police ranks.

 

Georgian TV founder charged with blackmail

From The Messenger:

The head and co-founder of the independent TV channel 202 was arrested on Saturday under accusations he extorted money from a member of parliament in order to quash a compromising report.

Shalva Ramishvili helped create the off-beat private channel and was best known for his program 'Debates on 202.' He was arrested on Abashidze Street in Vake as he came out from the building where MP Koba Bekauri had just handed him USD 30,000 in cash allegedly to halt an investigation into why the MP's wealth had dramatically increased over the past year.

The MP had been wired with a hidden camera that recorded the transaction. Ramishvili was immediately detained in a car with a companion Davit Kokhreidze. Police officials stated they recovered the money in the car.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs released a statement after the arrest saying MP Bekauri approached the ministry with the claim that Ramishvili had demanded USD 100,000 in order not to air the compromising program. The ministry's security department then arranged for the sting operation and the hidden camera.

While being moved from the building to a police vehicle, Ramishvili, whose birthday was the same day, appeared defiant, at times smiling and holding up a victory sign with his fingers. "It's a provocation," he said as police put him in a car.

Co-founder of 202, MP Vazha Kiladze, appeared at the scene of the arrest almost immediately and stated that he knew nothing about the deal but confirmed that journalists were preparing material critical of Bekauri.

The station 202 is the only Georgian channel broadcasting regular political debates. It does not have a regular news program but broadcasts investigative stories produced by the studio 'Reporter.' Earlier this year, it broadcast one such report that claimed to have evidence that Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was murdered and not as officials claimed accidentally poisoned by a gas heater.

On Saturday journalists from the studio responded to the arrests saying that Ramishvili did not have the power to block the program. They stated Reporter had an agreement to air its programs on TV 202, and that Ramishvili had no editorial control.

On Sunday, officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs failed in an attempt to conduct a supposed 'technical inspection' of the offices of Ramishvili's station 202.

Staff demanded that the investigators present a warrant or personal identifications. The officers refused and left the scene without further comment.

 

U.S. senators detained at Russian airport

From Moscow Times:

A U.S. Senate delegation led by Senator Richard Lugar was detained for three hours at the Perm airport on Sunday as it tried to leave the country after visiting nuclear weapons-related facilities, the U.S. Embassy said.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said the delay was "for customs reasons."

The Chicago Tribune, which had a reporter traveling with the delegation, reported that Perm border guards had demanded to inspect the group's military DC-9 jet and that U.S. officials refused, citing a joint U.S.-Russian agreement exempted military planes from inspection.

"We don't search Russian airplanes in the U.S. You will not search U.S. planes in Russia," said Ken Myers, a senior Senate staff member in the delegation, the Tribune reported.

Lugar, a Republican from Indiana and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Barack Obama, a Democrat from Illinois; and 10 staff members were initially locked in an airport lounge, the newspaper said. They were allowed to leave the lounge only after they surrendered their passports.

Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador William Burns helped arrange the flight's departure.

The delegation was on its way to Kiev for a meeting Monday with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko when it was delayed. The delegation was also scheduled to meet with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and opposition groups in Baku on Wednesday.

 

Posters smear Azerbaijan opposition

From Baku Today:

The Central Election Committee will study the issue of posters on the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), reformists, Ali Kerimli on the background of the Armenian flag, spread in Baku, the Azerbaijan’s CEC chairman Mazahir Panahov told Trend.

"We will study the issue. Certainly, it is not the time now to hold campaign and propaganda. The relevant stage will start only after 7 September”, the CEC head said. The information of the posters in the city is, of course, a serious matter, and we are to investigate it. If a candidate is really conducting campaign he must be seriously punished. But now the issue must be seriously studied," Panahov added.

Panahov said any candidate, officially set to campaigning may be seriously punished. "Ali Kerimli has not been even registered as the candidate," he said.

PFPA (reformists) has earlier reported that posters of Ali Kerimli on the background of the Armenian flag spread in the city is another "black PR" campaigning and counter-propaganda against Ali Kerimli.

 

Beslan mothers to meet Putin on Friday

From MosNews:

After a hesitation, Beslan mothers have accepted President Putin’s invitation to come to the Kremlin for a meeting on September 2, exactly one year after the tragedy in the North Ossetia school, Russian news agencies reported Sunday.

The mothers of children who died in the school siege in North Ossetia a year ago have been trying to meet Vladimir Putin for a long time, but they only received an invitation from Kremlin after they stated they would not have any of the Moscow official, including Putin, visit the mournful ceremonies a year after the tragedy, planned for September 1-3. The long-awaited invitation then arrived for September 2 and was considered with much doubt and hesitation.

“We did not expect the president to make such a dirty political step, but if we decide we have to overcome our feelings for the sake of what we do, we shall go to tell him who is guilty in the tragedy, and especially to say that President Putin is the one who’s guilty,” Dudaeva said after she received the invitation Friday.

 

Warsaw won't recognise new UPB leaders

From Reuters:

Poland will not recognise newly elected leaders of a Polish ethnic organisation in Belarus because they were installed after pressure from President Alexander Lukashenko's regime, a senior diplomat said on Sunday.

Poland objected to the new leaders of the Union of Poles in Belarus on the grounds that they were hand-picked on Saturday by Lukashenko to replace the ousted pro-Warsaw leadership.

 

Khodorkovsky ends hunger strike

From The Moscow Times:

Jailed oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky has ended his hunger strike after almost a week, his lawyer Anton Drel said Friday, as a Moscow court set his appeal for Sept. 14.

The former Yukos chief ended his hunger strike Thursday evening, after hearing on a news broadcast that his former business partner Platon Lebedev had been taken out of solitary confinement, Drel said.

 

Four more Polish activists in jail

From Radio Polonia:

A crackdown on ethnic Poles continues in Belarus. An informal spokesman of the Polish Union Andrzej Pisalnik told Polish Radio that four independent Polish activists are in jail. One of them began a hunger strike. A journalist from the Polish Solidarnosc paper and a Belarussian reporter were arrested as well on charges of misdemeanou r. The two were heading for a congress of the Polish community meeting in the western city of Volkovysk today. It is expected to elect new leaders who would be loyal to Belarus’ authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. Meanwhile, the union’s independent and democratically elected leader Angelica Borys was interrogated again today in connection with allegedly misappropriating the organization’s funds.
The Belarusian authorities have been persecuting ethnic Poles accusing them of attempts to destabilize the state.

 

Azerbaijan protesters demand free elections

From Baku Today:

Some five thousand Azerbaijani opposition supporters, dressed in the orange of the Ukrainian revolution, called for upcoming elections to be "free and honest" in a demonstration here Saturday.

The protestors from the opposition group Azadlyg (Freedom) representing the three right-wing opposition parties, carried placards saying, "We need free elections" and "Bush offer us democracy".

They also demanded equal representation on the country's electoral commission and the government bring to justice the killers of Elmar Hussseinov, editor of the opposition newspaper, who was shot dead on March 2.

Police said 5,000 people attended the demonstration in Baku while organisers estimated there was 15,000.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

 

Third Way site returns

We're delighted to report that the Third Way site is back.

Dear Friends of the Third Way,

Obviously, someone got afraid of us… ?

Right after the website got international support, someone hacked our website and erased some of the files. One indication that people who made the damage are strange hackers is that they did not leave any ‘deface’, which is placing a substitute homepage on the site.)

The damage to the files will not stop us! We have full copies of all files of www.3dway.org in many locations and available for quick recovery. Whatever anyone would try doing, he or she will not succeed because the website is indestructible. It is for the benefit of all people our dear Belarus!

The Cartoon Club (MultClub) website is already up and running at http://mult.3dway.org !

Judi and the international support team of the Third Way.


The fundraising page is back too, but in a new location.

 

Third Way web site hacked

We have just been informed that Third Way's web site was hacked today shortly before 1 pm GMT. Currently, attempts to access the site result in a 404 error. The logs have been erased.

The organisers hope to have the site running again by this evening.

Also, representatives of the group will be giving an interview to Ukraine's
Channel 5 today at 8.30 local time.

We'll bring you updates as they become available.


As promised, we have made five MultClub cartoons with English subtitles available for viewing while the official site is down. They can be found at http://uk.geocities.com/volodymyrcampaign@btinternet.com/index.htm. Unfortunately, because Yahoo!Geocities limits a site's hourly data transfer (and conveniently doesn't tell us what the limit is) they may not be available at all times. If this happens to you, e-mail us and we'll give you access to the files via Yahoo! Briefcase. Sorry for the inconvenience - we're looking for a less clunky way to do this.

 

Support the Belarusian cartoonists

Third Way, the Belarusian organisation whose members are being prosecuted for producing satirical cartoons about Lukashenka, have set up a web page where you can make a donation via PayPal.


Dear Friends,

The 3dWay.org’s team asks for your help because this is because of you that we exist!

We have no grants, nor wealthy sponsors. At the same time, we need to pay bills for growing website traffic, Internet access, cell phone communication with journalists and participants… Please review our initial budget at http://www.3dway.org/about_eng.php?artid=10 . This is only a portion of what is needed.

The Third Way urgently needs funds for:
— lawyers for those persecuted by KGB: Victor, Andrey, and Pavel,
— hosting 3dWay.org that became the number one political site in Belarus, as well as for mounting website traffic that grows every day,
— computers, because personal computers of some activists had been seized by KGB,
— Internet access for activists,
— cell phone communication for activists.

We understand that no one has «extra» money. But if even a half of tens of thousands of participants and readers of this website would dedicate $1, $2, $5, $10 from their monthly budgets, this site will go on! Value the services that are available on the website and that are useful for YOU — yourselves!

You may donate by credit of bank card with logo of VISA, MasterCard, AmEx, or Discover, by clicking on the "DONATE" button.


To make a contribution by a check, please send it to "Maidan Int" at the address:

104-G University Vlg,
Ames, IA 50010,
USA.

If you might have further questions about how you could support the Third Way now, please call us at +1 (312) 239-06-12, or email us at office@3-way.info.

The Third Way website is a real people’s initiative! Now your help is needed more than ever!

Sincerely,

The group of popular financial support of 3dWay.org.


You don't need to be rich to provide real help. The budget linked to above shows that the organisation's annual expenses are only USD $311 (though doubtless more will be needed to fight their legal case). The Volodymyr Campaign has already contributed $90. We feel confident that readers of our site and of other pro-democracy blogs can make up the rest. This is a chance for us to show just how much of a difference the blogosphere can make. Please give what you can today!

Please note that the Third Way site has periodically been hacked or shut down by the Belarusian authorities. Don't worry, this won't endanger your card details - payments are made through PayPal, so card numbers aren't kept on the site. If the web site is down, you can still make donations to the snail-mail address given above. (The address belongs to Maidan International.)

 

Uzbekistan: Radio correspondent jailed

From Arena:

On 26 August, the Namangan civic court sentenced Nosir Zakirov, the correspondent of Liberty Radio for Namangan region, for six months in jail on the charges of offending the special services personnel on the phone.

"My father is jailed for his professional activity," journalist`s son Zohid Zakirov told Arena.

Nosir Zakirov aired the opinion of Haydarali Komilov, region`s resident, on Andizhan events, where the latter addressed a criticism in poetim form against the policy of the authorities.

Right after the sentence was heard, the journalist was taken to jail in Djidakapas district of Namangan region.

On 6 August, Nasirov called the National Security Service staff Dilmurod Isamuhamedov and cursed him in a harsh form for provoking his respondent Komilov to refuse from broadcasting as well as stating in print, that it was done by pressure.

Nosir Zakirov has been working for Liberty Radio since 1996. He is one of the first reporters, who was present in Andizhan at 3 am on 13 May and reported on the seizure of the Andizhan jail by phone.

 

Russian editor freed

From Reporters without Borders:

Nikolai Goshko, the deputy editor of the weekly Odintsovskaïa Nedela, who was sentenced to five years of hard labour on 5 June for libel, was released by judge Andrei Lantsov on 19 August in Smolensk. Gochko said he thought the judge had bowed to pressure from international organisations.


Goshko had accused officials in Smolensk of being responsible for the murder of radio station owner Sergei Novikov.

 

Georgians to be deported from Belarus

From Radio Free Europe:

A KGB official said on Belarusian Television on 25 August that two detained activists of Georgia's Kmara youth organization, Giorgi Kandelaki and Luka Tsuladze, will be deported from Belarus in connection with their "interference in internal affairs" of the country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 2005). "During their stay in the country, they made contacts with representatives of radical, politicized unregistered structures, such as Zubr, Youth Front, and Limon, and held a number of training seminars on the organization of civil-disobedience actions accompanied by mass unrest, similar to those during the colored revolution in Georgia," the KGB official explained. "They participated in a number of unsanctioned actions to disseminate illegal publications in the city of Minsk and intended to travel to a number of regions of the country with analogous purposes."

 

Kazakhstan continues ban on news web site

From Radio Free Europe:

In a ruling on 25 August, the civil-suits section of Kazakhstan's Supreme Court left in force an earlier decision by an Astana city court on the banning of the independent online daily set.kz, "Kazakhstan Today" reported. In the initial decision, the Astana city court refused an appeal by the publishers of set.kz, who had hoped to overturn a resolution by the Ministry of Culture, Information, and Sports to close the publication. Newspaper representative Sergei Utkin described the latest ruling as predictable and vowed to appeal. Set.kz was conceived as a continuation of the independent newspaper "Respublika," which was shut down by the authorities earlier this year

 

Town council shows cost of opposing Putin

From Reuters India:

Alexander Klokov, the chain-smoking chief prosecutor in this quiet Russian backwater, says he cannot explain why, but Kovrov city council is a hornet's nest of criminals.

Over the past two years, 8 of the 21 council members have been in prison, awaiting trial or fresh from jail. It has made Kovrov, a city of 150,000 half a day's drive east of Moscow, something of a phenomenon.

The councillors themselves say there is a simple explanation: they dared to criticise Kovrov's mayor and now he is punishing them by fabricating criminal cases with the help of corrupt police, prosecutors and judges.

Kovrov may be an extreme example but critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin say officials everywhere are abusing the justice system to sideline political threats.


The rest of the article is well worth reading.

 

Uzbek authorities forced confessions

From The Independent:

Uzbek authorities have jailed hundreds of people and forced them to confess to links to radical Islamists to justify the army crackdown on peaceful demonstrators last May that left 500 people dead, The Independent has learnt.

Human Rights Watch reports that witnesses of the massacre in the eastern city of Andizhan and relatives of the victims, have been rounded up and jailed for between 10 to 15 days on fabricated charges. "They are severely beaten and tortured until they sign statements confessing to being members of radical Islamic groups," a researcher for the group who has just visited the central Asian region said.

Despite eyewitness accounts contradicting the government version, the Uzbek authorities continue to insist that the army was forced to act on 13 May to put down an attempt by radical extremist Muslims to overthrow it. Human Rights Watch fears that the jailing and coercion of "hundreds, or even thousands" of people is a deliberate tactic aimed at bolstering the government's case. It appears that some have been so intimidated that they have readily confessed to having been manipulated by the radicals.

The issue of the Uzbekistan massacre is not on the agenda of the next foreign ministers' meeting on 1 September. A Foreign Office spokesman denied that this was letting President Karimov off the hook. "We are working through the United Nations and other regional organisations to establish an independent inquiry," the spokesman said.

 

Torture 'rampant' in Russian jails

From The Independent:

Leading Russian rights activists have accused the authorities of indifference to abuses and torture they said were rampant in Russian jails. They called for legislation allowing public oversight of detention facilities.

Lev Ponomaryov, the head of the All-Russian Public Movement for Human Rights, likened Russia's prison system to the Soviet Gulag. "Without doubt, the policy of [prison officials] is aimed at making punishment more severe, crushing each convict ... and morally and often physically destroying them," he told a news conference.

In an annual report based on monitoring prisons in 40 out of Russia's 89 regions, his organisation said prison officials routinely beat and tortured inmates. The report said the convicts also were subjected to cruel punishment for no reason and systematically humiliated.

 

Georgian opposition deputy beaten

From ISN:

Georgian authorities say an opposition lawmaker and beer brewery official was beaten and left in a forest in Georgia, local media reported on Thursday. Attackers seized Tamaz Kacheishvili near his home in the capital Tbilisi late on Wednesday and tied him to a tree in the woods outside the capital. He was found by a shepherd and hospitalized with a concussion, cuts, and bruises. Kacheishvili is a Right Opposition deputy in the national parliament, which is dominated by supporters of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Valeri Gelashvili, a member of the opposition Republican Party, was severely beaten last month by attackers. He claimed he had been beaten by members of a department of the Interior Ministry.

 

More on Turkmenistan music ban

From The Daily Telegraph:

In recent years many things have irked Turkmenbashi the Great, as Turkmenistan's erratic president-for-life Sap-armurat Niyazov is officially known.

Opera and ballet have been outlawed as "unnecessary" while gold fillings and long hair are similarly prohibited.

Though relieved that the sun no longer glints off the teeth of the singers who perform in his honour, the president was reportedly furious to find that they were not singing at all, but merely mouthing the words. This week he took action, banning the playing of recorded music in all public places in an effort to stamp out the scourge.

Mr Niyazov's latest whim comes days after he issued a proclamation forbidding female news presenters and reporters from wearing make-up and dying their hair.

In power for 13 years, Mr Niyazov has turned his country into one of the most autocratic in the world, creating a powerful personality cult and forbidding all opposition. Even those closest to him live in fear. In the past month he has sacked a third of his cabinet.

Last week he docked three month's pay off his education minister, blaming him for falling standards in schools.

Calls from human rights groups for the isolation of Turkmenistan have only been heeded half-heartedly, critics say, because it holds the world's fifth-largest oil reserves.


Meanwhile, a Russian rocket has launched Niyazov's book into space.

 

Uzbek spies look for refugees in Kyrgyzstan

From Radio Free Europe:

Alisher Saipov is an independent journalist from the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh.

In July, he interviewed Qobiljon Parpiev, the alleged ringleader of the Andijon protests and a wanted man in Uzbekistan, where authorities have accused him of terrorist activities.

Soon afterward, Saipov says, he received a curious proposal.

“A local human rights activist, the head of the Law and Order human rights group, told me that an Uzbek security service officer wanted to talk to me about a very special offer," Saipov relates. "I said: ‘OK, tell him I can meet with him.' The man came. I was there with my friend. We talked. He said: ‘You know where Qobiljon Parpiev is. You’ve contacted him. If we catch him with your help, you’ll receive the 10,000-[dollar] reward promised for his capture.'"

Saipov says the man introduced himself by name and said he was an officer of the economic department of the Andijon regional branch of the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB).

Saipov says the SNB has intensified its activity in southern Kyrgyzstan since hundreds of Uzbeks flowed into the country seeking refuge following the Andijon violence.

Most of the Uzbek refugees were relocated to Romania in late July. But dozens more Uzbeks are believed to still be in hiding in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Some Kyrgyz citizens say Uzbek SNB officers have contacted them and asked for help in tracking down the refugees.

 

Tajikistan journalist gets two years

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

A judge in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, convicted the editor of a shuttered opposition newspaper on theft charges today, sentencing him to two years of "corrective" labor, fining him, and garnishing part of his wages. The Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the verdict, calling the charges politically motivated.

Mukhtor Bokizoda told CPJ he would appeal today's verdict, which comes several weeks after the government shut down the weekly Nerui Sukhan (Power of the Word). Bokizoda is also chairman of the Foundation for the Memory and Protection of Journalists, a press freedom group.

 

U.S. diplomat detained in Belarus

From Newsday.com:

Police briefly detained a U.S. diplomat in Belarus, and activists said Wednesday the authorities wanted to prevent him from meeting them.

American diplomats expressed concern over the detention and were discussing the incident with Belarusian officials, U.S. Embassy spokesman Alexei Solomakh said. Officials in Belarus' Foreign and Interior Ministries declined comment.

U.S. Embassy political officer Lyle McMillan was held for about 40 minutes on Tuesday, said Galina Skorokhod, an activist in the city of Gomel, where the diplomat was detained.

 

Gongadze made Hero of Ukraine

From Reuters AlertNet:

Journalist Georgiy Gongadze, whose murder in 2000 jolted the administration of Ukraine's former President Leonid Kuchma, was posthumously awarded the country's highest honour on Wednesday.

The headless corpse of Gongadze, 31, was found in a wood a month and a half after he disappeared in central Kiev. Three senior policemen have been arrested in connection with an investigation still under way.

"I have signed a decree presenting the Hero of Ukraine award (posthumous) to Georgiy Gongadze," said President Viktor Yushchenko, who won last December's election on a wave of protests against Kuchma.

"He gave his young life for our freedom and independence," he told an awards ceremony.

 

Namesake candidates to confuse Azerbaijan voters

From MosNews:

The opposition leader in Azerbaijan, Eldar Namazov, has two namesakes running for the parliament against him.

None of the two other Eldar Namazovs has previously been heard of on the Azeri political scene. One of them is a prison guard, the other a businessman, Reuters reported.

The opposition’s Namazov, a former presidential adviser, said the authorities were putting the two rivals on the ballot to split his vote as part of a dirty tricks campaign to rig the election in favor of the party of President Ilham Aliyev.

Namazov is now one of the leaders of the New Politics bloc. He said there were only 20 people with his name in the whole of Azerbaijan, so there was no coincidence in the namesakes’ appearance in the election slate. “I view the fact these two ’clones’ are running in my district as a compliment from the authorities. Such methods are used against candidates with a good chance of victory,” he said.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

 

Three youth movements unite

From The United Civil Party of Belarus:

"Pora" movement (Ukraine), "Mi" (Russia), "Birge!" (Khirghizia) and "Kahar" (Kazakhstan) have made a decision of uniting into the international democratic network and from now will permanently coordinate their moves, support each other's initiatives and hold common actions. The common fundaments of these movements are liberal values and the fight against all the signs of dictatorship and authorities' arbitrariness.

One of the main tasks is – forming of international space for the development of the civil society, which is completely independent from the government rule.

THE PARTICIPANTS' OF INTERNATIONAL DEMOCRATIC NETWORK MANIFEST.

We, free people of different countries, united by the fight for the rights of our citizens and the opportunity to live in prospering, democratic society, are uniting our efforts and will support each others initiatives by all means. Each of us is strong, but together we are invincible.
Democracy – is not what we get after elite changes. The fundament of democratic power – is civil society, which's building we consider one of our primary aims. In modern conditions state borders don't play their previous role – and nothing prevents us from creating common international space of civil cooperation.

We are opened for everyone, who shares our values and is eager to confront all the dictatorship signs and authorities' arbitrariness. Each new organization in our network – is another step to the developed democracy.

 

MultClub site is back!

MultClub, the official site of the Belarusian cartoons, is up and running again -- for the moment, at least.

Unlike the mirror site, the official site includes several cartoons with English subtitles. We've taken the liberty of downloading these, and if the site is blocked again, we will offer them here.

 

Pinsk newspaper's concert forbidden

From Charter 97:

Pinsk city executive committee has not allowed the independent newspaper “Miastsovy Chas” to hold a concert to celebrate the 100 issue of the newspaper. The concert with participation of Pinsk bards was planned for August 21 in a city park of culture and recreation. The previous verbal arrangement was made with the head of Pinsk city executive council Alyaksandr Hordzich, who assured the editor-in-chief of the “Miastsovy Chas” Viktar Yarashuk that the concert is to take place without any problems. However, the official letter signed by the head of the city executive committee Alyaksandr Kaneuski informed that the city executive committee does not allow holding an “advertising action” of the newspaper.

 

Another Belarusian paper liquidated

From Charter 97:

On August 24 the Economical court of Minsk region sustained a claim of Minsk regional executive committee to liquidate “Press-service” supplementary liability society, the founder of the newspaper “Kurjer iz Borisova”. The society is to be liquidated before January 1 next year.

 

Georgian activists arrested in Belarus

From Civil Georgia:

Two activists of the Georgian youth movement Kmara – Giorgi Kandelaki and Luka Tsuladze have been arrested in Belarus, the Georgian media sources reported on August 24.

The two Georgian citizens were reportedly arrested in Minsk together with coordinator of the Belarus youth resistance movement Zubr, Vladimir Kobets. Kobets was released shortly after the arrest.

Belarus police officials explained that the two Georgian citizens were “taken to the police station to check their documents,” according to the RIA Novosti news agency.


Charter 97 adds:


In two hours, after taking fingerprints, Uladzimir Kobets was released. As said by Kobets, one of the high officers of the police department, police officer, offered his apologies, saying that the detention was a “mistake during the identity check operation aimed against persons from the Caucasus”.

Kmara activists are still in the criminal investigation department. Their mobile phones are switched off, no information could be received from them.

 

Party leader seeks to dissolve Kyrgyz parliament

From Kyrgyzstan Development Gateway:

The leader of the Erkindik Party, Topchubek Turgunaliev, is collecting signatures for the dissolution of Parliament.

He has to collect 300,000 signatures and then a referendum can be held. Turgunaliev has submitted a copy of the form for collecting signatures to the CEC for its legitimacy to be established. The CEC did not give a negative or positive answer, but returned Turgunaliev’s letter with a comment that our legislation is not sufficiently well developed to solve this issue.

In the meantime, parties in all regions of the country have started collecting signatures and Turgunaliev thinks it will not be difficult to get the necessary number and it can be done quickly.

The reformer does not care about the opinion of Deputies, because he is sure that the current lawmakers are out of place in the JK and he doesn't care about possible riots connected with his initiative. “Any attempt to resist our action will be suppressed. Deputies say they will lead people out onto the streets. They will not be able to do this, because the people will not follow them”.

 

Azerbaijan picketers dispersed

From Real Azerbaijan:

On 24 August, NDP activists tried to hold a picket in front of the Ministry of Justice. The picket started at 11 a.m. In 10-15 minutes law-enforcement bodies drove the participants back from the building and detained 4 activists. Despite the dispersal, participants delivered a resolution to the Ministry, which demanded to register the NDP. Note that the city authorities did not sanction the picket. The NDP intends to continue actions of protest in September.

 

Belarus police prevent meeting with U.S. diplomat

From Radio Free Europe:

Members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Homel have accused police of disrupting their meeting with a U.S. diplomat on 23 August, Belapan reported. The diplomat -- identified as "Lyle MacMillan" -- was reportedly expected to meet with NGO activists in a building belonging to local opposition figure Viktar Karneyenka that also houses the city's chapter of the United Civic Party and several other organizations. But two hours before the meeting, police officers reportedly ordered the building vacated, saying they had found an unidentified metal object nearby that could be an explosive device. As the activists and the diplomat gathered in a private apartment later in the day, two police officers entered and ordered all those present to produce their passports, citing a special operation aimed at tracking down illegal aliens. The U.S. diplomat and his aide were kept in the apartment for some 40 minutes and allowed to go only after their documents were checked.

 

Beslan mothers occupy court

From BBC News:

Mothers who lost children in the Beslan school siege have made an angry attack on Russia's President Vladimir Putin, at the trial of the sole siege suspect.

About 15 women who lost children in the Beslan siege continued to occupy the courtroom on Wednesday, after refusing to leave at the end of Tuesday's session.

The mothers, who spent the night in the court, are demanding to meet the top prosecutor in the case, deputy Russian prosecutor general Nikolai Shepel.

On Tuesday, one mother read a list of officials she alleged had not been brought to account, among them Mr Putin and the head of Russia's FSB security service, Nikolai Patrushev.

"We believe that witness testimony before the court is being ignored and that the real guilty parties are not at the defence table," said Ella Petrozova, speaking by phone from the courtroom to AFP news agency.

Correspondents say many of the relatives have been enraged by revelations of police corruption, and by details of why the Beslan rescue operation was so flawed.


Update: Radio Free Europe reports that the sit-in has ended:


The protest rapidly turned into a trial of strength between Shepel and the Beslan mothers. And after 28 hours in the courthouse, the women, looking worn and tired, gave up and returned to their homes empty-handed.

But Suzanna Dudiyeva, who heads the Beslan Mothers Committee, says the protest is not over and will continue in some other form.

Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service after leaving the courthouse, she said the Beslan Mothers have no longer any desire to meet with Shepel.

 

Russia: More obstruction of Protestant churches

From Forum 18:

Protestant communities wanting to build a place of worship face increasing obstruction from state authorities, they have told Forum 18 News Service. Other religious confessions also encounter such problems. For example, a protracted series of discussions and protests have still not enabled Moscow's Emmanuel Pentecostal Church to either obtain a new construction site or official rights to the land beneath a building it owns. Similar problems have been encountered by Protestant churches elsewhere in Russia. Protestants have often told Forum 18 of their suspicions that local Orthodox clergy are instrumental in blocking Protestant construction plans, through private discussions between state officials and local Orthodox clergy. Unusually, in a letter seen by Forum 18, the Volga city of Saratov refused Word of Life Pentecostal Church permission to put an advertisement on its own outside wall, "on the basis of letter No. 490 dated 19 April 2005 from the Saratov diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church." Protestant communities also often speak of lengthy and energy-consuming battles to retain worship premises they acquire.

 

Campaign for third Putin term

The Daily Telegraph has an article about the increasingly conspicuous campaign to remove Putin's term limit:

The most recent backing for the idea came from Leonid Markelov, the president of the obscure semi-autonomous republic of Mari El. The fact that senior regional officials are now chosen by Mr Putin, rather than elected, may or may not have influenced Mr Markelov's position.

The main factor deterring Mr Putin from changing the constitution is the fear of the likely cool response from the West. The strategy could easily be compared with that of Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, described by President George W Bush as "the last dictatorship in Europe".

 

Times features gallery of Belarusian cartoons

The recent arrest of the Third Way cartoonists in Belarus is getting some attention in the mainstream British media. The Times of London has a piece on the arrest, which links to a gallery of images from the cartoons.

 

Moscow mayor's critic jailed for fraud

From Radio Free Europe:

A court in Russia's republic of Tatarstan today sentenced a former State Duma deputy to 7 1/2 years in jail on charges of fraud and embezzlement.


The court also sentenced Sergei Shashurin to pay Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company $31,500 and awarded another five unidentified individual plaintiffs a total of $10,000 in damages.

Earlier this year, a Moscow court sentenced Shashurin to 20 months in jail for libel.

Shashurin won fame five years ago when he publicly accused Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of being involved in financial misdeeds in Tatarstan.

Shashurin served in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, from 2000 through 2003. He was a member of the Duma's anticorruption committee.

 

Kazakh court finds NGO laws unconstitutional

From Gazeta.kz:

The Constitutional Council of RK has recognised the laws "On activities of branches and country offices of international and foreign non-lucrative organisations on the territory of RK" and "On changes and amendments in several legislative acts of RK on non-lucrative organisations" passed by the parliament and forwarded to the head of state for signing, as non-complying with the Constitution, KZ-today correspondent reports from Astana.

Earlier Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, addressed an appeal to the Constitutional Council requiring to check these laws on the subject of their compliance with the Constitution. These documents intended to strengthen the state control over activities of foreign and international non-lucrative organisations on the territory of Kazakhstan have provoked complaints from the NGO.

 

Azerbaijan 'law defenders' meet PACE president

From Today.az:

The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Rene Van Der Linden being on a visit in our country met with law defenders.

The law defenders brought to the attention of the guest the tense situation, the political struggle conducted by means of “black PR”, the problem of the Election Code on changing the composition of the commissions and restoring the right of NGOs to observe the elections was not solved, and the existed problem in distribution of identity cards.

They also informed that imprisonment of some former political prisoners is kept, and many persons are in migration. The law defenders also said that rights of hundreds of citizens were violated as a result of unfair judgments delivered by the courts.

Then the PACE president met with the heads of some press organs acting in the country. The sides discussed the pre-election situation, existing situation of the press, violation of the rights of the journalists, attacks to some press organs in Azerbaijan and etc.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

 

Belarus officials prevent democratic conference

From Viasna:

On 21 August in Ielsk the local police blocked the house in Kalinina Street, where a congress to nominate delegates to the Congress of Democratic Forces should have taken place, reported Radio Liberty. They stopped anyone coming near the house. Telephone communications were cut off.
For three hours the police detained the driver of the privately-owned minibus Uladzimier Shytsikau who had driven Uladzimier Katsora and Andrei Tochyn, the gathering coordinators, from Homel to the district capital. They were closely watched. Police Major Aliaxei Shauchuk attempted to detain Mr. Katsora and Mr. Tolchyn at the market in a café where they had stopped to drink some mineral water. The guard explained that all new people coming to Ielsk arouse the suspicion of the police. But because the activists had passports with them, they had no other reason to continue detention.
The gathering in Ielsk that was to have nominated delegates for the Congress of Democratic Forces did not occur.

 

E-mail Lukashenka!

You can now use Alexander Lukashenka's new English-language web site to tell him what the world thinks about his repressive policies in Belarus.

As tempting as it may be to do otherwise, please keep letters polite and reasonable -- see Amnesty International's letter-writing guide for tips. If you're stuck for ideas, you can always adapt our model letters about Mikhail Marinich.

 

Cartoonists' passports taken

From Charter 97:

A member of the civil initiative “Tretsi Shliakh” (“The Third Way”) Aleh Minich was summoned to Hrodna branch of the KGB for interrogation. On August 16 the Prosecutor’s Office of Minsk brought up a criminal action for slandering Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The reason for that were animated cartoons of political content placed at the site of the initiative, 3dway.org. KGB officers have made search in the apartments of several members of “The Third Way” and confiscated more than 10 computers. As Radio Svaboda informs, on August 22 passports of Aleh Minich and his wife were confiscated.

Investigator Aleh Varanetski summoned Aleh Minich, the member of the Third Way, for interrogation for the second time. The first interrogation took place on August 16 in Hrodna. Besides, on that day Pavel Marozau and Andrei Abozau were interrogated in Minsk by KGB officers. They were left without all documents. Even Andrei Abozau’s birth certificate has been confiscated.

 

Belarus: Reporter's passport seized

From Charter 97:

Belarusian frontier guards seized the passport of the reporter of the «Gazeta Wyborcza» Waclaw Radziwinowicz, this influential Polish daily informed today. This occurrence has taken place in a train from Kuznica Bialostocka, to Hrodna. “Belarusian frontier guards said that the passport would be returned in Hrodna, after some formalities,” Mr.Radziwinowicz told to PAHONIA. “It is very strange, as that had not been done before. I do not know the reason,” commented the Polish reporter.

 

Khodorkovsky on hunger strike

From Mikhail Khodorkovsky's web site:

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has gone on a hunger strike to demonstrate support for his partner Platon Lebedev who was locked in a punishment cell on August 19 for refusing to take his daily walk. Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Anton Drel told Ekho Moskvy radio his client is consuming neither food nor water to express solidarity with his friend. “He knows he isn't alone,” Khodorkovsky said in a written statement handed to Drel. Lebedev was moved to the punitive cell despite suffering from cirrhosis and the possibility of facing liver cancer in the near future, his lawyers say. They added Khodorkovsky is positive the Kremlin is punishing him and Lebedev for the recent bold article Khodorkovsky published in the press, “A Turn to the Left.” Last week, Khodorkovsky’s lawyers confirmed he was ready to agree to run for parliamentary election to State Duma from behind bars. “I am ready for great obstacles and more stringent jail conditions,” he was quoted by his lawyer Yuri Schmidt as saying.

 

Belarus to lose EU trade benefits

From Radio Free Europe:

Last week, the European Commission started a procedure of suspending benefits for Belarus under the EU's Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), Belapan reported on 22 August. The commission has given the Belarusian government six months to bring the country's regulations into line with its international commitments and eight months more to carry out 12 recommendations of the International Labor Organization regarding the treatment of trade unions in the country. If the European Commission sees no progress on the recommendations in 14 months, it will request the EU Council of Ministers to temporarily abolish the GSP benefits for Minsk. According to the commission, the move would mean an annual loss of 100 million euros ($122 million) for Belarus.

 

Independent Muslims face new court case in Kazakhstan

From Forum 18:

Murat Telibekov, head of the non-state controlled Union of Muslims of Kazakhstan (UMK), is facing a further court case, Forum 18 News Service has learnt, as part of what Telibekov believes are attempts to close down non-state controlled Muslim organisations. Telibekov has made accusations of corruption at the Nur-Mubarak Islamic Cultural University, which is controlled by the Egyptian and Kazakh governments, and the university has launched a legal case against both Telibekov and a Kazakh TV station which interviewed him about his claims. Shamsudin Kerim, vice-rector of the Nur Mubarak University, told Forum 18 that "the UMK is an illegal organisation. It's just a bogus outfit. The only organisation that can represent the interests of Muslims is the [state-controlled] Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Kazakhstan."

 

Turkmenistan bans recordings in public

From Turkmenistan.ru:

Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov has signed a decree banning the use of “phonograms at all cultural events, song-musical performances organized in honor of state holidays, in the programs of TV channels of the General directorate of the Turkmen television, as well as at all cultural events organized in the state and public organizations, in places of mass gatherings of people, during wedding parties and festivities.”

As the Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru reports, the decree by the head of state names “negative effect of the use of phonograms on the development of the song-musical art in the period of independence” one of the main reasons of the ban on the use of phonograms.

The Ministry of Culture and TV and Radio broadcast of Turkmenistan, administrations of the country’s regions and Ashgabat city were placed in charge of the implementation of this decree.


We're not sure what 'phonograms' are supposed to be, but this Yahoo News story says that the ban is on recorded music, not recording equipment as we previously stated:


A decree signed by Niyazov and published in newspapers "bans the use in Turkmenistan of sound recordings... at musical performances on state holidays, in broadcasts by Turkmen television channels, at all cultural events organised by state and social institutions, in places of mass assembly and at weddings and celebrations organised by the public."

In comments carried by the official daily newspaper Neitralny Turkmenistan, Niyazov said there was a need "to protect true culture, including the musical and singing traditions of the Turkmen people, from the negative influences of factors that to them are foreign."

 

Turkmenistan rewriting election laws

From NewsCentralAsia:

It was clear Monday that Turkmenistan is rewriting rules for election of president and members of the parliament.

During a meeting of the cabinet of ministers, President Niyazov asked Ovezgeldy Atayev, chairmen of Turkmen parliament, to chalk out new rules for the presidential and parliamentary elections.

 

Plot thickens in Azerbaijan

From Radio Free Europe:

Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party (AHCP) today accused the country's security forces of plotting to overthrow the party's leadership.


Ramiz Tagiyev, who is an adviser to AHCP Chairman Ali Kerimli, told reporters in Baku that a few weeks ago he let himself be recruited by officers of Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry with a view to foil their suspected plans ahead of the 6 November legislative polls.

Tagiyev said the arrest of opposition youth leader Ruslan Basirli was part of a plot to overthrow the AHCP leadership. Basirli was detained earlier this month on charges of receiving foreign money to overthrow the government.

His arrest sparked a wave of antiopposition protests throughout the country. Tagiyev today alleged that the security forces' plan envisaged the seizure of the AHCP Baku headquarters by pro-government protesters and the replacement of Kerimli by himself.

There was no immediate comment from the Azerbaijani authorities.

 

Russia deports anti-government protester to Tajikistan

From ITAR-TASS:

Russia extradited to Tajikistan an active participant in anti-government protests in western Tajikistan the mid 1990s, an official confirmed on Monday.

The operation to detain Sobirdzhon Mamadzhonov was carried out by Russian and Tajik law-enforcement bodies in a Russian town within the framework of the bilateral accord on extradition, head of the antiterrorist department of the Tajik Interior Ministry Maruf Shakarov told Itar-Tass.

Mamadzhonov is accused of a number of serious crimes, including active participation in the armed group of the rebel Tajik Colonel Makhmud Kudoiberdyyev who attempted to stage a coup d'etat in 1995-1997.

After the authorities suppressed the mutiny, Mamadzhonov fled the country and lived in Russia under forged papers.

 

Kasparov held up at Moscow airport

From Interfax:

Prominent chess-player and opposition Committee 2008: Free Choice member Garry Kasparov was held up at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport for about half an hour late on Sunday due to technical malfunctioning at passport control, the public relations center of the Federal Security Service told Interfax.

"A failure in the technical control system caused a delay in passing through passport control by Mr. Garry Kasparov at Domodedovo International Airport," the center said.

"Confiscating his passport or creating any other obstacles for his entry into the Russian Federation were not our intention. Passport control officers checked [Kasparov's] documents within the longest possible timeframe designated for the procedure," it said.


But Kasparov tells a different story. From MosNews:


Kasparov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station: “When I came to the window and produced my passport, a female lieutenant recognized me and asked me to wait. After that a male lieutenant came, took my passport and left. He came back and went away several times, made phone calls and asked me questions. Being asked what it was all about, he said that the matter was classified,” Kasparov said.

Kasparov said that the only phrase that he could hear as the man was talking on the phone was: “How can I stop a Russian citizen from entering Russia?

”This phrase led me to a conclusion that my name had been put on some sort of black list requiring some measures. After consulting my lawyers, I will try to find out what is wrong with my name and what provoked such a reaction from the border guards, who were confused and did not know what to do with me.“

 

OSCE concerned about Belarusian cartoonists

From OSCE's web site:

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, has voiced his concern over a new criminal investigation involving alleged libel of the President of Belarus in animated Internet cartoons.

The cartoons depicting President Alexander Lukashenko and top government officials in a satirical way were posted on the website of the Belarusian Third Way youth association.

On 17 August the Minsk Prosecutor's Office started an investigation under Article 367 of the Belarusian Criminal Code Libelling the President, which carries prison sentences of up to five years.

The state security service (KGB) raided the apartments in Minsk and Grodno of members of the association who posted the cartoons and confiscated 12 computers. Website administrator Andrei Obuzov and project co-ordinator Pavel Morozov were interrogated as witnesses on 16 August.

"Satires are common and popular methods of expression in all media in democratic societies," Miklos Haraszti said.

"Treating cartoons as acts of criminal libel or insult is completely against the concept of free political debate. Moreover, for the sake of uninhibited scrutiny of governments, senior officials must tolerate harsher forms of criticism than average citizens. This was stated in numerous judgements of the European Court of Human Rights."

Haraszti noted that Belarus is the only OSCE participating State which imprisons people under special provisions on defamation to protect the President. Only last year two people were convicted on similar grounds, one of whom is still in custody.

"The news about this libel case is especially worrying in the light of this month's reports of harassment of journalists related to the elections of new leadership of the Union of the Poles of Belarus," the OSCE Representative added.

Monday, August 22, 2005

 

Belarus: Break through the wall of indifference

Last weekend, 13 respected leaders and thinkers from all over the world published an open letter urging democratic countries not to turn a blind eye to events in Belarus. The Taipei Times reprints the full text:

Belarus, a country of more than 10 million inhabitants has been for more than 11 years ruled by President Alexander Lukashenka, for whom governance means extensive abuse of basic human and citizens' rights on a daily basis, removal and imprisonment of his opponents and journalists, and deception of the populace by the mass media under his control.

Last autumn, a bogus referendum that Lukashenka held removed a two-consecutive-terms limit on the presidency and thus he took the first step to prolong his rule beyond next year, when his current term expires.

Since then, for a number of months -- largely unnoticed by most media and politicians of the democratic world -- the last remains of non-governmental organizations, an independent press and political parties that could thwart the plans of the Belarus autocrat on prolonging his rule ad infinitum have systematically been liquidated.

The information blockade of the country is growing, opportunities for young people to study abroad are being limited, and the last independent daily Narodnaja Volja is about to be closed down.

Lukashenka can get away with all of this not only due to the unsavory legacy of totally decimated post-soviet social and societal structures, but also due to lack of interest in the fate of Belarus on the part of democratic countries worldwide.

We are, therefore, convinced that it is necessary to make use of every opportunity to break through this wall of lack of interest and inability on the part of the global democratic community in order to take a stand against this post-soviet autocrat and his efforts to totally suppress the remains of independent initiatives in Belarus.

At the same time it is necessary to continue developing contacts and cooperation with Belarus' independent initiatives.

The EU that so far has not been able to support efforts aiming at building Belarus based on democratic values should speedily seek instruments that would enable this process. At the same time the EU should fully open its exchange and educational programs for democratically oriented young people of Belarus.

The EU should, together with Ukraine, quickly react to the proposal by EU parliamentarians Janusz Onyszkiewicz and Bogdan Klich to enable the people of Belarus an access to non-censored, non-manipulated information through radio and TV broadcasts from neighboring countries.

We call for creating a common strategy for the EU, US and all other democratic countries that ought to be interested in the democratization of Belarus.


This open letter is signed by Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic; Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland; French philosopher Andre Glucksmann; Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa; former German president Richard von Weizsecker, H.R.H. El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; former New Zealand prime minister and former WTO director general Mike Moore; Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corp of New York, Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa, former South African president F.W. de Klerk; US theologian Michael Novak and Senator Karel Schwarzenberg of the Czech Republic.

 

United Civil Party pays tribute to cartoonists

From the United Civil Party (Belarus) web site:

The site of UCP has devoted today's information review to the "3-d way" initiative. With that action we show solidarity with the creators of the remarkable cartoons, which have become the mirror of Belarusian reality.

Each peace of our news on the site is illustrated with the pictures from the cartoons, which can be accessed in the Internet from the site www.mult.3dway.org.


The cartoonists' web site was back briefly over the weekend, but is now inaccessible again. The mirror site (see our left sidebar under 'Belarus links') is still working, however. The Third Way's main site is also still up (and has been added to our links).

 

Authorities shut evangelical church in Minsk

From Charter 97:

The Minsk city court has ruled to liquidate Christian religious congregation “Belarusian Evangelical Reformed Union”. The Minks executive committee summoned the church representatives to the court as they had not re-registered. Pastor Leanid Lipen stated in the court that the case of the church’s liquidation is a purely political one.

Main reason for liquidation of religious communities, according to many priests, is lack of money for renting suitable premises, while the state does not allocate funds for that. However, Calvinist Leanid Lipen said in the court that he boycotts the new law and demands to return Calvinist churches that had belonged to that denomination historically.

“We cannot recognize this discrimination law. It violates freedom of conscience. We need freedom to be returned to us, and historical buildings returned to us (at least one of them), and the persecution to be stopped. All our buildings have been confiscated. They have been confiscated, and now they demand some legal address. I think they understand everything. They know about the history of Reformation. It is done purposely,” the pastor said to Radio Svaboda.

 

Borys interrogated yet again

From Charter 97:

The leader of the Union of Poles in Belarus Andzelika Borys was summoned for interrogation, in order to be asked only one question: where she was on January 6/7 overnight, when a car of former chairman of the UPB Tadeusz Kruczkowski was burnt. “It is evidently an attempt to intimidate me, to summon me to police department again and again,” Andzelika Borys said.

 

Belarus: Independent publisher liquidated

From Charter 97:

Minsk executive committee has liquidated the “Denpress” Limited liability company, a publisher of an independent newspaper “Den”. Mikola Markevich, a director of the “Denpress” LLC, found out about that on August 19 in the evening from the tax inspection of the Central district of Minsk. The decision about liquidation was signed by the head of Minsk executive committee Mikhail Paulau and charge d’affaires Mikhail Savanovich on July 4.

“It is a political order, like the closure of the “Pahonya” newspaper,” M.Markevich maintains. “This decision is based neither on facts nor on law,” he believes. “It is enough to say that “Denpress”, a publisher of the newspaper “Den”, issued a newspaper on May 26, and that issue was later detained in 40 km by Belarusian-Russian border. These are entrepreneurial activities, aren’t they?”

 

Uzbek journalist expelled from city

From Arena:

Recently, head of the terrorism combating department of the Jizzakh regional interior department visited independent journalist Jamshid Karimov, who lives in Jizzakh, and told him to leave the region until 24 August, otherwise “strictest measures will be taken”.

According to Karimov, who immediately reported on the incident to his colleagues, the official hinted that his professional activity and contacts with foreign media and local opposition figures and human rights activists are disliked by the Jizzakh regional governor Ubaidulla Yamankulov. This is why Yamankulov ordered to get rid of the journalist, at least during the 14th independence anniversary celebrations, to prevent him from “spoiling the holiday”.

The journalist was promised that “if he is obedient and stops quarreling with the authorities”, he might be allowed to return to Jizzakh after the celebrations, but not earlier than 7-10 September.

 

Weekend protests in Samarkand

From Radio Free Europe:

Two public protests broke out this weekend in the Uzbek city of Samarkand. On 20 August, demonstrators from the city outskirts blocked roads to protest the scheduled destruction of their houses. And yesterday, hundreds of merchants angrily protested a sudden decision to relocate the city's main market. As RFE/RL reports, the Samarkand protests are the first in Uzbekistan since those that ended in a violent government crackdown in Andijon in May.

The owners of some 100 homes from the village of Bogimaydon, on the outskirts of Samarkand, said authorities gave them only a week's notice to leave their homes before they were destroyed in order to make room for a highway-extension project. They said the compensation they had been offered was far less than the market value of their homes.

In response, the residents blocked the village's main road for several hours on 20 August, holding placards reading: "Don't demolish an old house before building a new one." It is a phrase familiar to the country's authoritarian leader, Islam Karimov. He uses the expression often during speeches, and has also used it as the title of one of his numerous books.

Local human rights activists like Jamol Mirsaidov were said to be among the protesters. Protesters claimed Mirsaidov and other demonstrators were hurt when police used force to disperse the crowd. Uzbek officials have not commented on the protest.

 

Russian Protestants find it hard to rent churches

From Forum 18:

Russian law does not prevent religious communities from renting premises for worship, but Protestants have told Forum 18 News Service that in recent months they are increasingly barred from doing so. Most Protestant communities in Russia do not have their own church buildings and so have to rent buildings for worship, the majority of which are state-owned. Examples of this problem known to Forum 18 come from many parts of the Russian Federation. Anatoli Pchelintsev and Sergei Sychev, two Moscow-based lawyers specialising in religious believers' rights, have suggested to Forum 18 that possible reasons include state administrators not informing the federal authorities of official leases, so avoiding the need to give reasons for refusing to lease, and stepped-up pressure by the Moscow Patriarchate on local authorities and cultural institutions not to lease buildings to Protestants.

 

Minorities are second-class citizens in Turkmenistan

From IRIN:

The plight of ethnic minorities in Turkmenistan remains bleak, despite claims to the contrary by the Turkmen government during this month's session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

"Each of Turkmenistan's ethnic and racial minorities bears a heavy burden of discrimination and exclusion in the environment where preferential treatment is openly afforded only to ethnic Turkmen," Robert Arsenault, president of the International League for Human Rights (ILHR), asserted from New York. He went on to describe the human rights situation in the largely desert but energy rich state, as alarming.

"The president for life, Saparmurat Niyazov, has defined the newly created country of Turkmenistan as the glorified home of ethnic Turkmen," Erika Dailey, director of the Open Society Institute's Turkmenistan Project, added from New York. "In that conceptualisation, there is no room for non-ethnic Turkmen in Turkmenistan. So the state has attempted to "turkmenify" its non-Turkmen population," added Dailey.

According to activists, racial and ethnic minority populations were excluded from employment in the public sector, denied access to education in their native language, restricted in their practice of religion and continuously intimidated by police.

"Such important religious confessions as the Armenian Apostolic Church and Shia Islam, remain unregistered and thus illegal," the ILHR official added. He noted that Uzbeks, traditionally a rural population in the northern and eastern parts of the country, represent a special case as they are viewed with particular suspicion by the authorities as people not loyal to the regime.

Meanwhile, Dailey accused the government in the capital, Ashgabat, of fabricating population data that significantly underestimated the actual numbers of ethnic minorities in the country.

In a further discriminatory move, the government reportedly coerced other Turkic people such as Uzbeks and Kazakhs, to assimilate and "pass" as Turkmen under threat of a loss of job, which in Turkmenistan is tantamount to being sentenced to a lifetime of poverty.

 

Lebedev moved to punishment cell

From MosNews:

Platon Lebedev, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s closest business partner, has been moved to the punishment cell, his lawyer told the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Friday.

The move is intended to punish him for refusing to take the daily walk, the lawyer said.

Prison officials confirmed the news. The Interfax agency quoted a high-ranking official from the Federal Service for Corrective Institutions as saying that Lebedev was moved from a general cell to a punitive cell on Friday for one week “because Lebedev had broken the rules of confinement and was rude to the prison administration”.

Back in 2004 Dr. John O’Grady, eminent British specialist in hepatology who analyzed Platon Lebedev’s medical history, concluded that he suffered from a dangerous type of hepatitis that may result in hepatic cirrhosis and other grave complications. His report contradicted that of prison doctors who say Mr. Lebedev’s health is satisfactory and holding steady. Since then Lebedev’s lawyers claimed that his condition had worsened and that he may even be suffering from liver cancer.

For now, Lebedev has spent most of his term in the prison’s hospital, the lawyers added.

 

Kazakhstan to hold election in December

From Radio Free Europe:

Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council announced today (19 August) that the country will hold early presidential elections on 4 December. The decision puts an end to a long-standing controversy between pro-government and opposition politicians in the Central Asian nation over the timing of the vote. Observers say the decision means a likely reelection for incumbent Nursultan Nazarbaev, as it leaves potential challengers with little time to prepare.

The Senate today was in the process of being selected by regional and local officials and Nazarbaev himself, with no popular voting involved. Otan candidates were expected to make up a majority of the seats, and no opposition candidates were in the running.

Experts say Nazarbaev is likely to win the early December poll, as his popularity remains high. The Kazakh parliament abolished presidential term limits in October 1998. If he wins, this would be Nazarbaev's third term in office.

Observers say Kazakh authorities have led a widescale campaign aimed at weakening the political opposition.

 

How one newspaper became Karimov's mouthpiece

From EurasiaNet:

Before the republic gained independence in 1991, Ozbekiston Adabiyoti va San’ati served as one of Uzbekistan’s more critical and insightful newspapers, publishing ground-breaking articles advocating recognition of Uzbek as the official language, an immediate end to cotton-monoculture, protection for the Aral Sea and the restoration of Central Asia’s cultural and religious heritage.

During the early years of independence, Ozbekiston Adabiyoti va San’ati would sometimes stake out a position as a government watchdog. In early 1992, for example, Uzbek security forces ruthlessly quelled a student riot at Tashkent State University, leaving several students dead or seriously wounded. In sharp contrast its Andijan coverage, Ozbekiston Adabiyoti va San’ati deplored the unnecessary loss of life during the student protest and demanded a thorough investigation.

A full month after the Andijan events Ozbekiston Adabiyoti va San’ati had not provided a full and impartial description of what went on. Instead, the newspaper has offered a steady stream of attacks on alleged Islamic radicals who organized and participated in the Andijan events. Ozbekiston Adabiyoti va San’ati’s editorial voice has not differed substantially from all other Uzbek media outlets. Commentaries during this period have seemingly aimed to achieve two goals: reinforce the notion that it was every citizen’s duty to support the administration in its struggle to defeat "extremists" and "terrorists; and to convince Uzbeks that the government, since independence, has sought to address the spiritual needs of the population.


Read the rest.

 

Azerbaijan: Orange ban continues

From MosNews:

Starting August 10, major shopping centers in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, are being raided by officers in civilian clothes who seize merchandise of orange color. Where retailers object their visitors threaten with police summons.

Retailers say they were warned in advance against selling goods of orange color and ordered to withdraw such items from their shops. Now, those who ignored the warning are watching despondently their orange merchandise destroyed in bonfires.

Baku’s largest shopping malls — Sadarak and Bina — have already been fully purged of orange-colored items including children’s clothes and expensive leatherwear. Textile retailers are suffering the heaviest losses as orange-colored fabrics have been especially popular latterly prompting retailers to import large quantities.

The government has repeatedly urged retailers to give up orange colored goods voluntarily. Those, who fail to comply, would face high fines, officials say. Local entrepreneurs have voiced concern over the arbitrary measures.

 

Uzbekistan denies killing refugee

From Interfax:

The Uzbek Prosecutor General's Office on Saturday denied a report that one of the four men who fled to Kyrgyzstan after May's riots in the Uzbek city of Andizhan but have later come back to Uzbekistan died under torture.

All four "are charged with direct participation in the attacks on the buildings of the regional administration and law and order [agencies] and on a military base, with killing hostages and civilians, and with hijacking cars," Svetlana Artykova, spokeswoman for the office, told Interfax.

She said the four former refugees were currently in preventive detention.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

 

Marinich's sentence reduced by another year

From Charter 97:

The term of imprisonment of the Belarusian political prisoner, former Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Belarus Mikhail Marynich has been reduced by one year due to the amnesty dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Victory in the Great patriotic War. The press center of the Charter’97 was informed about it by the son of the political prisoner, leader of the civil initiative “Freedom to political prisoners!”, member of the “Free Belarus” Igor Marynich.

After the amnesty Mikhail Marynich, who had already served a year and a half, would have to serve his term for a year more. “However now, taking into consideration his state of health, father has every reason for being released earlier,” Igor Marynich said.


Although this is good news, it isn't the complete amnesty we had hoped for. Another year is still too long for Mr Marinich, who is obviously in prison for political reasons and is recognised as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. We will continue to campaign on his behalf.

 

New factsheets and letters for Marinich campaign

We've updated our factsheets and letters again. The text is below. The files can also be downloaded in .wps format in British and American versions.

Factsheet:



Speak out for justice in Belarus!


During the last week of December 2004, Mikhail Marinich stood before a court in Belarus, accused of stealing computers. Marinich was not a typical petty thief. A former economics minister and ambassador, he was a prominent figure in the political opposition. The case against him was hardly compelling: The U.S. State Department, who owned the supposedly purloined computers, denied they had been stolen at all.

But Marinich was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The outcome had been certain from the beginning. This is the price Belarusians pay for opposing their president, Alexander Lukashenka.

A recent Amnesty International report observed that 'it is becoming increasingly dangerous to criticize the regime in Belarus. Leading members of the opposition, human rights defenders and journalists who voice criticism risk criminal charges for slandering the President.' Many journalists and activists have been arrested; others have died in mysterious circumstances or simply disappeared. In a speech on 21 April 2005, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice described Belarus as the ‘last true dictatorship’ in Europe.

Marinich, who suffers from high blood pressure, has been kept in harsh conditions without medical treatment. On 7 March, after being denied medication for four days, he suffered a stroke. He has had relapses of ill health ever since.

Worldwide protests have already led to some improvements in Marinich‘s situation. His sentence was reduced to three and a half years in response to the outcry, and was then reduced by a further year as part of a general amnesty in August 2005. International pressure also forced the Belarusian government to let Marinich have medical treatment outside the prison colony after his stroke. However, he is still not permitted to see his lawyer or to appeal against his conviction.

We must keep up pressure on the Belarusian authorities until Marinich -- and all political prisoners in Belarus -- are free. You can help by signing and returning the attached letter to the Belarusian embassy.

The Volodymyr Campaign is a voluntary initiative devoted to informing the public about human-rights issues in the former Soviet Union. To learn more, please visit http://volodymyrcampaign.blogspot.com/ or e-mail us at volodymyrcampaign@btinternet.com.


UK version of the letter:


His Excellency Alyaksei Mazhukhou
Ambassador of Belarus
6 Kensington Court
London W8 5DL

Excellency:

I am writing to you about the opposition politician Mikhail Marinich, who is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for the theft of computer equipment.

It is my understanding that the United States government, the owner of the computers in question, denies that they were stolen and has called for Mr Marinich to be set free. There are further reports that Mr Marinich was not given a fair trial and that he was arrested because of his activity with Belarus‘s political opposition. If true, this constitutes a grave violation of his rights to a fair trial, to free expression and to participation in government (Articles 9-11 and 18-21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). I understand that Mr Marinich’s health has declined in prison and that he has been denied meetings with his lawyers.

On humanitarian grounds, I appeal to the Belarusian government to do the following:

To release Mr Marinich pending a full and fair review of the charges against him.
To allow him fair legal representation.
To permit him to receive any medical treatment necessary.

Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,





U.S. version:


His Excellency Mikhail Khvostov
Ambassador of Belarus
1619 New Hampshire Avenue., N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

Excellency:

I am writing to you about the opposition politician Mikhail Marinich, who is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for the theft of computer equipment.

It is my understanding that the United States government, the owner of the computers in question, denies that they were stolen and has called for Mr Marinich to be set free. There are further reports that Mr Marinich was not given a fair trial and that he was arrested because of his activity with Belarus‘s political opposition. If true, this constitutes a grave violation of his rights to a fair trial, to free expression and to participation in government (Articles 9-11 and 18-21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). I understand that Mr Marinich’s health has declined in prison and that he has been denied meetings with his lawyers.

On humanitarian grounds, I appeal to the Belarusian government to do the following:

To release Mr Marinich pending a full and fair review of the charges against him.
To allow him fair legal representation.
To permit him to receive any medical treatment necessary.

Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,



 

Belarusian democrats may meet in Kyiv

From Charter 97:

When the organizers of the National Congress of democratic Forces, where the single opposition candidate for presidential elections is to be nominated, would not be able to find premises for holding this forum is Belarus, in would be held in Kyiv.

The decision to choose Ukrainian capital has been made on August 17 at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the democratic forces. The parties that constitute the standing Committee, addressed 50 institutions of executive authorities to rent a hall for holding a Congress, but they were denied everywhere. Leaders of the five parties – members of the Standing Committee, addressed Alyaksandr Lukashenka to solve the problem of the premises for the forum, Radio Svaboda informs.

 

Belarusian Polish deputy released

From Charter 97:

Today deputy head of the Union of Poles in Belarus Wieslaw Kiewlak was released from Kastrychnitski special remand prison of Hrodna. The court found him guilt of organizing an unsanctioned protest by the Polish House in Hrodna. On that day, August 1, the UPB was visited by the deputy chairman of Polish Sejm Donald Tusk. As the building of the Polish House was encircled by policemen, the meeting took place outside the house.

“In order to wear through the day, we were reading a book by Jan Pavel [Pope John Paul] II, and discussing different topics. We prayed to go through detention safely. These 15 days of detention one thought had been disturbing me, the thought of my unfair arrest. I was taken from my family, from my three children. My youngest son turns only half a year in a couple of days. We have been deprived of our farm unjustly, and I have been fired from work unjustly. All this things were unjust,” told Wieslaw Kiewlak to Radio Svaboda after release.

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