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Wednesday, 02 February 2011

2 February 2011 News Digest

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By Alima Bissenova (2/2/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Azerbaijan Islamic Party head accused of coup attempt

21 January

Azerbaijan Islamic Party head accused of coup attempt

21 January

The leader of Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Movsum Samadov has been accused of coup attempt, the agency reports. According to Lenta.ru, Movsum Samedov have been accused of coup attempt. The court sentenced M. Samedov to a three-month arrest. Head of Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Movsum Samadov was arrested on January 7 after a video of a speech he had made denouncing President Ilham Aliyev was posted on the video-sharing website YouTube. The deputy head of the party, Vagif Abdullayev, party activist Elchin Hasanov, and Samadov's driver, Mir-Husseyn Kazimov, were also detained, Hurriyet Daily News reported. Hurriyet Daily News also informed the Interior Ministry said Samadov was actively planning to put his espoused beliefs into action while police have said they found "three combat grenades" in a shop owned by the IPA leader's father, and "seven gun cartridges" in a cousin's apartment. Samadov has been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and planning "public disorder." (Kazakhstan Today)

 

Turkmen president says necessary to have multi-party system

21 January

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has ordered the country’s parliament to speed up the work on the political parties bill.  “The right to organise political parties is a basic civil right,” he said. It is necessary to “speed up the work on the bill on political parties and to unify the principles of formation of civil society’s election institutions.”  Over 20 years of Turkmenistan’s independence, which is celebrated in the country this year, there has been only one party – the Democratic Party, which was organised in 1991 as the Communist Party ceased to exist. Berdimuhamedov said for the first time in February of 2010 about the necessity of having a multi-party system. “Turkmenistan develops democratically and should anybody initiate a new political party, we, in compliance with the Constitution, will register it the same year,” he said adding that “it may be an agricultural or any other political party.” “It is only natural that new parties will take part in the social and political life and will compete with the Democratic Party,” he said. “They must serve one common purpose – to provide that Turkmenistan gains a decent place in the international community and becomes a well-developed country.” (Itar-Tass)

 

Saakashvili Visits Armenia

22 January

Georgia and Armenia are “old allies” and the two countries “will be lost” without close cooperation, President Saakashvili said in Yerevan. He started two-day working visit to Armenia on January 22. Speaking at a ceremony of awarding winners of Armenian-Georgian school students’ competition in Yerevan, Saakashvili described his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, who was also present, as his “friend and brother”. “He deserves my respect and admiration,” Saakashvili added. He also said that Georgia would provide ten presidential scholarships for the Armenian students for studying in Georgia. The Armenian President said on January 22, that his Georgian counterpart’s visit would be “one more step towards strengthening of our relations.” (Civil Georgia)

 

EU pressed on talks with Uzbekistan

25 January

European leaders weren't tough enough when they pressed the president of Uzbekistan on human rights issue, Human Rights Watch alleges. Uzbek President Islam Karimov during meetings with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was pressed to free political prisoners and expand military cooperation with the European community, London's The Independent newspaper reports. Human Rights Watch in its annual report, however, criticized what it described as habitual support for regimes that it considers repressive. The European Union was criticized for lifting sanctions on Uzbekistan after state security forces fired on protesters in Andijan in 2005, killing at least 187 people. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said it was hard to find a "more ruthless" leader in the world than Karimov. "For him to be received warmly by Mr. Barroso is in a sense a culmination of this gradual capitulation to Uzbekistan," he was quoted by The Independent as saying. Barroso, however, defended his actions, describing support of Uzbekistan as "conditional." (UPI)

 

Kyrgyzstan row over plan to name mountain after Vladimir Putin

26 January

The leading opposition party in the former Soviet republic has accused the new pro-Russian leader of making the country a "laughing stock" with the plan, and of making the offer without realising that it is illegal under Kyrgyz law. Almazbek Atambayev, Kyrgyzstan's prime minister, earlier this month signed a bill to give the name Peak Vladimir Putin to a 14,587 foot summit in the country's Tian Shan range. The country already boasts a Peak Yeltsin and a Peak Lenin. "We will become a laughing stock," said Joomart Saparbayev, an MP with the opposition Ata Meken party. "Unfortunately some politicians in the government, in trying to build good relations with Russia, are doing pretty stupid, foolish things." To Mr Atambayev's embarrassment, he made the offer without realising a 1995 Kyrgyz law makes it illegal to name a mountain, or indeed any geographical feature, after a living person. (The Telegraph)

 

Car bomb kills at least three in Russia's Dagestan

26 January

At least three people have been killed by a car bomb in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, say reports. Police say at least three other people were injured when the bomb went off by a cafe in the town of Khasavyurt. Islamist separatists in Dagestan have been fighting the Moscow-backed authorities for years. The militants are suspected of being behind this week's attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport which killed 35 people and injured more than 100.  Police spokesman Magomed Tagirov said all those killed in Khasavyurt had been inside the Karavan cafe when the blast struck, the Associated Press news agency reports. A spokesperson for the town's main hospital told Russia's Interfax news agency that the dead were all civilians. The Ria-Novosti agency quoted a medical official as saying a fourth person had died while undergoing surgery.The Dagestan region experiences almost daily attacks from militants wanting to set up an independent Islamic state. The attacks mostly target security forces and police. The militants have increasingly focused their operations on Dagestan, since neighbouring Chechnya - where Moscow has fought two bloody wars with separatists since the fall of the USSR - has been gradually pacified. (BBC)

 

Georgian President warns against violence in the region after Moscow attack

27 January

Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Georgia, told The Independent yesterday that attacks like Monday's suicide bombing at a Moscow airport were "payback" for Russia's policies in the North Caucasus, as he compared the country to a "crocodile ready to swallow you up". Mr Saakashvili and the Russian leadership have exchanged regular insults since the 2008 war between the countries over the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but his comments are likely to enrage Moscow, coming so soon after the blast at Domodedovo Airport that killed 35 people. Speaking in the Georgian capital last night, President Saakashvili – whose country's two breakaway regions are recognised by Moscow as independent states – accused Russia of trying to destabilise neighbouring countries by encouraging secessionist movements. "I discussed this personally with Vladimir Putin a while ago. I said to him that the payback for his country for supporting separatists would be that violence would come back to hit them as well," Mr Saakashvili said. "Putin said, 'No, if anyone tries anything against us, we shall crush them like cockroaches,' while jabbing and twisting his thumb on the table in front him." He said “I do not know who carried out this bombing but I totally condemn this kind of terrorism. The Georgian people have nothing but sympathy for those who have suffered losses in this attack. We must be very careful and try to stop this type of violence. It is certainly not in our interest for the region to be destabilised and all responsible powers must try to avoid policies which could lead to such things.” Before his interview with The Independent, the Georgian President made similar comments in a televised question-and-answer session. "Russia has a political mentality which is on the level of a reptile, like a crocodile ready to swallow you up," Mr Saakashvili said. There is a well-documented personal enmity between Mr Saakashvili and Mr Putin. The Georgian President once said that talking to Mr Putin was "like somebody standing with an axe at your head and saying: "Don't worry, everything's OK, close your eyes and relax.'" Mr Putin, meanwhile, has made fun of the time that BBC cameras caught Mr Saakashvili chewing the end of his tie. He also reportedly told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he wanted to "hang" Mr Saakashvili "by the balls". Critics of Mr Saakashvili, who came to power in the Rose Revolution of 2003 promising democratic reforms, worry that the Georgian President is aiming to become a powerful prime minister when his second presidential term ends in 2013, just as Mr Putin did in 2008. Yesterday, Mr Putin said preliminary investigations into Monday's blast suggested that the bomber did not come from Chechnya. It was unclear whether he meant he had no links to the North Caucasus, or was from a neighbouring republic such as Dagestan. He also ruled out negotiation with terrorist groups. (The Independent)

 

Suicide attack kills eight at Kabul supermarket 28 January Afghan police say a suicide bomber has killed eight people and injured six in a grocery store in Kabul frequented by foreigners. Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi said three foreigners and a child were among the dead. The store is situated in the heavily guarded Wazir-Akbar Khan district, an area favored by foreigners and wealthy Afghans. In a text message sent to reporters, the Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the attack was against the chief of a U.S.-based security contractor, Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater. (RFE/RL)

 

Contract serviceman killed in Dagestan

28 March

A contract serviceman of the Interior Troops of the Russian Interior Ministry was killed in Dagestan’s Kizlyar region.  According to the information of the Interior Ministry, “unidentified people shot a serviceman in the yard of his own house at about 23.45 Moscow time on Sunday. He died from bullet wounds on the spot.”  Thirty cartridge-cases of 7.62 mm calibre and nine cartridge-cases of 9 mm calibre were found at the site of the incident. According to the preliminary information, two criminals were involved in the attack. A search for them is being held. Criminal proceedings were instituted. (Itar-Tass)

 

Senior advisor to Afghan president charged with embezzlement 29 March Afghanistan's attorney general today announced that a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai has been arrested on embezzlement charges. The arrest of Noorullah Delawari is the second this week of an Afghan official or former official from Karzai's government. On March 28, the attorney general's office said Enayatullah Qasimi was being charged with mismanagement of public funds. Qasimi was Karzai's transportation minister from 2004 to 2006. Those charges are linked to his approval of contracts during 2004 for the purchase of four aircraft for the state-owned Afghan Ariana airlines. Prosecutors say the government was overcharged $9 million for the planes. (RFE/RL) Taliban fighters seize district in Afghanistan’s remote east 29 March Taliban insurgents seized a district in Afghanistan's remote northeast after a brief battle with police, provincial officials said on Tuesday, underscoring the difficulty Afghan and foreign forces face in securing the increasingly violent region. Hundreds of Taliban fighters had captured the Waygal district center in mountainous Nuristan province in the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday, said Mohammad Zarin, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Nimatullah Mazabyar, the head of the Nuristan provincial council, also confirmed sparsely populated Waygal was under control of insurgents. Zarin said government forces were being prepared to launch a counter-offensive to retake the district. Violence in Afghanistan has spiraled in the past year, with Taliban-led militants stepping up their fight against the Afghan government and its Western backers as Kabul prepares to take security responsibility gradually from foreign forces. In a statement emailed to the media, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Islamist militants had hoisted their flag in the district center and that 12 policemen had been captured, along with arms and ammunition. Mujahid said the success of the operation would prove wrong recent remarks by U.S. General David Petraeus, commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, that NATO-led troops had made gains against the Taliban and other insurgents. Nuristan and neighboring Kunar province have witnessed an increasingly violent struggle as insurgents spread out of traditional Taliban strongholds in the south over the past two years. They are close to the porous border with Pakistan, across which insurgents launch attacks from safe havens in Pakistan's largely lawless tribal areas in the northwest. Last week, the Taliban abducted about 50 police recruits during an ambush in Kunar's Chapa Dara district. The policemen were stationed in Waygal but went through Kunar to collect their salaries. Taliban fighters and other insurgents have seized other districts in Nuristan and Kunar in the past, only to abandon them before security reinforcements arrived. (Reuters)

 

Abkhazia Releases Preliminary Census Results

29 March

Population of Abkhazia stands at 242,826, according to preliminary figures of a February census released by the breakaway region’s statistics office on March 28. According to the previous census, held in Abkhazia in 2003, about 214,000 people lived in the breakaway region. The figures, however, have always been a source of controversy with various estimates ranging from 180,000 to 220,000. Based on number of voters registered in Abkhazia for 2005 elections, the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group suggested that population in Abkhazia was between 157,000 and 190,000. The breakaway region’s statistics office said that final results of 2011 census, including ethnic breakdown of the population would be available by the end of this year, according to the Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress. The preliminary results provide breakdown of population by the region’s districts and towns with capital Sokhumi representing the largest one with 64,478 people (plus 12,000 people living in rural areas, which are part of the entire Sokhumi district). 30,437 people reside in pre-dominantly ethnic Georgian populated district of Gali, according to the released figures. Breakdown of population by other districts is as follows: Gagra district – 39,342; Gudauta district – 37,143; Ochamchire district – 25,235; Gulripshi district – 18,146 and Tkvarcheli district - 16,000. (Civil Georgia)

 

Ex-Georgian MP to stand trial

29 March

Ex-Georgian MP Sandro Bregadze, who is accused of hooliganism, will today stand trial. He is currently kept an investigation center in Tbilisi. Bregadze is accused of starting a brawl at a petrol station in Tbilisi in February. According to information, the incident took place between Bregadze and an employee of a Visol gas station on Vaja Pshavela Avenue. Earlier, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced Bregadze to pretrial detention for 40 days. He was found guilty of hooliganism involving firearms. The court refused an appeal to release the accused on bail of 3,000 lari ($2,100). Bregadze left the Freedom party of Konstantine Gamsakhurdia in 2010 and was going to organize a new political union with the former party members, who also left the Freedom Party. Currently, Bregadze is not a member of any political party. (Trend)

 

Russia's bin Laden dead?

29 March

Doku Umarov, the man dubbed the Chechen version of Osama bin Laden, may have been killed in an attack by Russian forces, a regional leader suggested. Russian investigators announced Tuesday that charges were filed against Umarov and others for organizing the January attack at the Domodedovo Airport in Moscow. The attack killed more than 30 people at the busy terminal. Moscow said those charged for the January attack could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports. More than a dozen rebels in the Chechen region were killed in an attack on a suspected terrorist training camp in Ingushetia. Leaders of the republic suggested Umarov may be among those killed, though there was no official confirmation and none of the bodies were identified, the Russian report adds. Umarov claimed responsible for the 2010 bombing of a Moscow subway station that killed 40 people. False reports of his death circulated early this year following airstrikes in Chechnya.

Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus republics Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia have seen an upsurge of violence recently. Russia has been fighting the insurgency for many years following two bloody conflicts in Chechnya in the 1990s. (UPI)

 

Turkey supports Azerbaijan's position over airport to be built in occupied Khankendi

30 March

Turkey supports Azerbaijan’s position over an airport to be built by Armenia in the Azerbaijani occupied region of Khankendi, as this contradicts all international conventions. "We have always supported Baku’s position," Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Hulusi Kilic told journalists on Wednesday. "We are always close to Azerbaijan in all spheres and support its right fight. This issue must be addressed in the framework of the international law."

Kilic believes no steps disturbing Azerbaijani people must be taken. Armenia has no right to operate the airport in Khankendi, built in the Azerbaijani occupied territories. This contradicts all international conventions and will not be allowed by any international organizations, including an influential organization such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), AZAL spokesman Maharram Safarli said on Monday. It is necessary to obtain relevant documents and approval from the ICAO to operate the airport. Azerbaijan has already informed the organization about inadmissibility of carrying out flights from this airport. The Armenian side plans to open the airport in Khankendi in May (Trend)

 

Afghan President condemns U.S. “Kill Team” 30 March Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke out publicly today for the first time about a rogue U.S. army unit accused of deliberately killing Afghan civilians for sport. Karzai said he wants to ensure that ordinary Americans learn that "Afghans old and young [were] being oppressed in their name" by the alleged rogue "kill team" that is accused of murdering Afghan civilians and mutilating their corpses. “Rolling Stone” magazine this week published a series of graphic images and a long story, including extensive details of allegations against the U.S. soldiers. Karzai, who says he read the article, described the report as "heart-rendering." The U.S. military has apologized, while the Pentagon said the photographs were "in striking contrast to the standards and values of the United States Army." Altogether a dozen U.S. soldiers are accused in connection with the killings. (RFE/RL)

 

Uzbeks shut religious bookstores 30 March Uzbek security services have closed down bookstores specializing in religious literature in Tashkent, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports. Twenty bookstores in the Kitoblar dunyosi (World of Books) book trading center have been raided by Uzbek National Security Service (NSS) agents, police, tax officers, and representatives of the government Committee for Religious Affairs in the past week and closed. Kitoblar dunyosi was the only place allowed to sell books on religion, primarily on Islam and mainly published in Uzbekistan. A source close to the bookstores' owners who saw one of the raids told RFE/RL that officials were searching for specific Islamic books that were no longer published in Uzbekistan. He said that storeowners believe the exercise was directed against the sale of all kinds of religious literature. Photos sent to RFE/RL show the door to one of the stores, Flinta Books, taped shut with a paper seal bearing the signatures of an Interior Ministry officer, an NSS officer, and the store's director. There has been no official comment on the raids. The U.S. State Department's 2010 report on religious freedom says that in Uzbekistan possession of literature by authors deemed to be extremists, or of any literature illegally imported or produced, may lead to arrest and prosecution. The government categorically prohibits leaflets on the banned group Hizb ut-Tahrir and literature on Nur, a Turkish Muslim group deemed extremist. The Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA), a government agency accountable to the Cabinet of Ministers, must approve all religious literature. According to RFE/RL's source, bookstore owners were selling only books approved by the state. Local human rights activists say authorities have intensified their already tight grip on religion in the wake of the recent antigovernment uprisings in the Middle East. Employees in various sectors have reported they have come under pressure not to perform the five daily Muslim prayers, including Friday Prayers, during working hours. Women working in offices and markets have complained they are being told by employers not to wear the hijab, or Islamic head scarf. At the same time, the government is continuing its crackdown on what it calls radical groups willing to overthrow the constitutional order. Human rights groups have criticized the authorities, saying many people have been labeled "extremists" and jailed for peacefully practicing their religion. The government is also getting tougher on activities such as proselytizing and importing and disseminating religious literature. Officials have confirmed around 15,000 Bibles have been confiscated in the past year. On March 13, Uzbek police raided a Sunday worship service led by Baptists in a retirement home in Tashkent.  According to the Forum 18 News Service, police claimed they were on a counterterrorism operation and are preparing a criminal and administrative case against the Baptists. (RFE/RL)

 

Inmates in Kyrgyz Prisons stop hunger strikes 30 March Inmates at Kyrgyz prisons have stopped the mass hunger strike, which began on March 25, the State Penitentiary Service (GSIN) of the republic told Itar-Tass on Wednesday. "The authorities have been educating the participants during the protest all this time. As of now, all the inmates have begun to take meals and are complying with the regulations," GSIN said. Unofficial reports said the action involved almost 80 percent of inmates. The hungerstrike was staged in 11 penitentiaries and six remand prisons. The children's and women's penitentiary did not participate. GSIN officials said the inmates had brought forward a number of demands, including better prison conditions, quality medical assistance and an end to reprisals of criminals by the law-enforcement bodies. Relatives of the inmates rallied in Bishkek's central square to support their kin. The participants insisted on a meeting with Prime Minister Almazek Atambayev and even tried to force their way into the building accommodating the government. However, police prevented them from entering. Indignant at these actions, Kyrgyzstan public representatives threatened to call an alternative rally and demanded that the authorities toughen the penalty for criminals. Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry reported that police had detained 125 criminals in the past few months. During the hungerstrike, the Interior Ministry, together with GSIN, were working on a plan to intervene by using force. During mass riots in Kyrgyz prisons five years ago, several people were killed. Law-enforcement bodies suppressed the mutiny by tough actions. (Itar-Tass)

 

Three jailed for attack on Kazakh opposition activists

30 March

Three young men have been jailed for seven days for attacking Kazakh opposition activists protesting next month's presidential election, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. The three, all aged 19, were found guilty of hooliganism on March 29 over the March 11 incident in the northern city of Pavlodar. The trio attacked a group of activists from the unregistered Algha (Forward) party as they headed to the city center to take part in a flash mob. The chairwoman of Algha's branch in Pavlodar, Perizat Qasymova, told journalists that the three cut several balloons the activists were holding. The balloons had inscriptions saying "I will not go to the polling station!" The attackers also insulted the activists verbally, threatened to beat them, and tried to break a video camera they had with them.  Algha has been holding various gatherings calling on voters to boycott the April 3 early presidential election. President Nursultan Nazarbaev, 70, who has been running the country for more than 20 years, called the snap poll earlier this year almost two years ahead of schedule. Opposition groups have criticized the early election as "a tool to illegally prolong Nazarbaev's term in office again," and are calling for a boycott. (RFE/RL)
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