28 November 2011, 23:30
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 21-27
The second round of presidential election in South Ossetia, where no preliminary outcomes were not announced as of 900 a.m. on November 28; death in Baku of writer-publicist Tagi after he was attacked by unidentified persons; rallies in the capital of Dagestan against lawlessness of power agents; sentence to Belarusian rights defender Ales Bialiatski and related protests in South-Caucasian countries and Russia; Armenian-Turkish business forum in Yerevan; protest in SFD regions, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of November 21-27, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
South Ossetia: winner of second round of presidential election not yet named
On November 27, South Ossetia held the second round of presidential election, where the finalists defined during the first round on November 13 were Anatoly Bibilov, the head of the Ministry for Emergencies of South Ossetia and Alla Djioeva, ex-Minister of Education. The second round was found to be valid already in the middle of the day, when the threshold of 30 percent of voter turnout was exceeded. In total, more than 27,000 persons came to cast their votes.
As on 2:22 a.m. November 28, data from 43 out of 85 polling stations were processed; and Djioeva won 9972 votes, and Bibilov – 8971. The Central Election Commission (CEC) had planned to announce the first preliminary outcomes today at 9:00 a.m. However, it was not done, while the candidates' election offices have proclaimed victories of their nominees. Mr Bibilov's office has reported that after tabulation of 55 percent of votes, their candidate won 52.6 percent of votes against 45.7 percent of votes cast for Djioeva. On the other hand, her office has claimed that, according to their preliminary count, she is in the lead with a gap of about 5300 votes.
The week before the voting day was marked by television debates on November 23, where Alla Djioeva accused Anatoly Bibilov of putting pressure on the electorate, and Bibilov accused Djioeva of her "pro-Georgian" attitude. Both candidates admitted facts of violations in the first round. On November 24, the incumbent President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity said that he would ensure a "fair, democratic and transparent election"; however, he did not support either of the second-round finalists.
Azerbaijan: death of writer after attack of unidentified assailants
On November 23 in Baku, the writer and publicist Rafiq Tagi died after he was attacked in the evening on November 19. Unidentified attackers stabbed Tagi in his neck, abdomen and shoulder. The writer was hospitalized in grave condition to the intensive care unit and underwent a surgery. His health condition stabilized somewhat after the operation; however, soon aggravation followed, and he died. The funeral took place on November 24.
Mr Tagi's death caused a great resonance outside of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani presidential administration is not inclined to think that the crime was political; President Ilham Aliev took the inquiry under his personal control; and journalists demand to conduct a thorough investigation into the writer's death. Rafiq Tagi himself said on November 22 that the attack on him could be associated with one of his latest articles "Iran and Inevitability of Globalization", where he criticized the regime of Mullahs in Iran. The Iranian embassy denied any involvement of its country in the attack on Tagi.
Dagestan: two rallies against power agents' lawlessness
On November 21, in the square near the Avar Theatre in Makhachkala, a rally was organized by the public organizations "Union of Fair People", "Dagestan Is Territory of Peace and Accord" and "Akhlyu Sunnah" with participation of about a thousand persons, including relatives of kidnapped persons and residents of the village of Shamkhal, where several persons were detained on November 19.
The rally ended with adoption of an appeal to Presidents of Russia and Dagestan Dmitry Medvedev and Magomedsalam Magomedov, which stated that the republic was facing a real civil war, as a result of which several hundred people perished within the last year only, while a certain share of responsibility for the situation lies with local law enforcers, who practice illegal methods in their work.
On November 25, the same organizers held another rally in front of the Russian Theatre in Makhachkala. It attracted, according to different sources, from 2.5 to 3 thousand people. Prior to start of the rally, a large number of armed men in uniform could be seen in the venue. The protesters held posters reading "They were tortured just for their trust Allah Great and Praised", "Muslims are tired of special services' lawlessness", "Release our sons!" "What is my way out?!", "Today they take our sons and brothers, tomorrow – yours!", "Who's ordered this lawlessness?" and others.
The rally was attended by officials of the Prosecutor's Office and the Republic's Investigatory Committee, and First Deputy Prime Minister of Dagestan Rizvan Kurbanov, who was given the floor. At the beginning of his speech, Kurbanov was jeered by the protesters. He said that he came there on the order of the president and promised that no application about power agents' violations would be ignored and that anyone could get his appointment.
The participants of the rally adopted a resolution similar to the one adopted on November 21. After the rally, its moderator noted that should the protesters' demands were ignored, broad-scale protest rallies would be held every Friday. After the rally, the organizing committee of the rally and the commission set up from citizens of the republic held meetings with state officials and law enforcers.
Rights defenders in Russia and Southern Caucasus support FIDH Vice-President convicted in Minsk
On November 24, a court in Minsk sentenced Ales Bialiatski, the head of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" (Spring), Vice-President of the FIDH (International Human Rights Federation) to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a high security colony. The court found him guilty of a large-scale tax evasion and also ruled to confiscate his property. Mr Bialiatski himself believes the case to be politically motivated and said that he had spent all the funds received to his foreign accounts on the work of the Human Rights Centre and help to Belarusian political prisoners.
The verdict caused indignation of human rights defenders in many countries, including Russia and Southern Caucasus.
In Yerevan, activists of public organizations the Helsinki Association of Armenia, "Wives of political prisoners", "Law and Order" and "Sotsioskop" gathered on November 25 in front of the Belarusian Embassy with posters reading "Freedom to prisoners of conscience!" "Freedom to Ales!", "For our and your freedom!" Indignation with the verdict of the Minsk court was also expressed by representatives of the civil society in Azerbaijan, who demanded his immediate release. An action in defence of Bialiatski was also held on November 25 in Tbilisi, where representatives of the Georgian public had earlier expressed their support for the Belarusian human rights defender.
Representatives of the Russian public held a series of solo pickets outside the building of Belarusian representative office in St Petersburg. Activists unfolded their posters: "Freedom to Ales Bialiatski!" and "Freedom to political prisoners!" Protest actions against the sentence passed to Bialiatski were also held in Brussels, Stockholm, Ankara, Bishkek, Vilnius, Zagreb and Paris.
The trial of Ales Bialiatski caused broad public resonance in different countries. To centralize the actions of solidarity with Bialiatski, organized by human rights defenders around the world, the FIDH has launched a trilingual website "Freedom to Ales Bialiatski!"
Armenia: after forum in Yerevan contacts of Armenian and Turkish businessmen will continue
On November 22-23, an Armenian-Turkish business forum was held in Yerevan. The event was held within the framework of the programme of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) "Promotion of Armenian-Turkish Rapprochement". Apart from the USAID, the organizers of the event were the Eurasia Foundation, the Yerevan Press Club, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Armenia" (UIEA) and the "International Centre for Human Development".
During the forum, a memorandum of cooperation was signed by representatives of business circles of both countries, which stipulates lobbying of the issues associated with the opening of the land border. The document also envisages strengthening of business contacts, which are hampered by the closed border between the countries. According to the participants, namely, 50 persons from Turkey and 70 – from Armenia, the main problem between Armenians and Turks is their mutual distrust and lack of information about each other; therefore, it was decided to hold a joint business conference in Turkey in six months.
SFD: regions claim their rights to hold protests
The past week was marked by protest actions held in several regions of the Southern Federal District (SFD).
On November 23, the Volgograd residents, unhappy with their local state officials, held a sanctioned rally in the Dubovsky District. At the rally, they once again called for resignation of Vladimir Klochkov, the head of the administration of the Dubovsky District, and of Anatoly Brovko, the Governor of the Volgograd Region. The action was also attended by the residents of Volgograd – the stockholders of the Concrete Combine ZhBI-1, who have failed to receive their paid apartments.
On November 25, four former miners from the city of Zverevo, Rostov Region, held solo pickets in front of the regional administration in Rostov on Don demanding to return privilege in payment for heating, and to make public the results of the inspection of the housing and communal services of the city, which was conducted after a series of protests against excessive, as believed by residents, utility tariffs.
On November 26 in Sochi, the residents, who had been deprived of their property by judicial decisions, held a two-hour-long picket. Activists collected signatures to a resolution against the actions of some members of the judiciary in Sochi, which they plan to send to President of Russia.
In Astrakhan, the entrepreneurs engaged in passenger transportation, announced their intention to stop their work on December 1 in protest against numerous inspections and unjustified fines imposed by the city administration. It is planned that nearly two thousand minibuses-fixed-route taxis will refrain from getting out into the streets.
: "Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 14-20", "Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 6-13", "Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 31 to November 6".
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