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Eurovision Protesters, Police Clash in Baku, Mladic Trial Back on Track

Plus, “Russian Wahhabi” sentenced to prison and Ukrainian lawmakers debate a controversial language bill with their fists.

by S. Adam Cardais and Joshua Boissevain 25 May 2012

1. Baku police arrest 30 in Eurovision human rights protest


On 24 May Azerbaijani police detained some 30 people who gathered outside Ictimai TV, the Baku-based public broadcaster, to protest the country's deteriorating human rights record, Radio Free Europe reports. The protest was part of an opposition pledge to mobilize this week while Baku hosts the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, broadcast by Ictimai TV.


The demonstrators, who were quickly rounded up in the second police crackdown of a peaceful protest this week, called for greater media freedom and demanded that public television offer airtime to the opposition. Though police released the detainees later that day, eight were fined for disturbing the peace, RFE reports.


Public television head Ismayil Omerov tells RFE that the broadcaster has never broken the law. He dismissed the protests.


aliev_100Ilham Aliev
The regime of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev has an egregious press freedom record. Azerbaijan ranks 162 out of 179 countries in Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index 2011-2012. The group says Baku stepped up media repression last year to undermine the opposition in the wake of the uprisings in Arab countries.


Currently, at least five journalists and two bloggers are in Azerbaijani jails, according to Human Rights Watch. The group condemned Thursday's arrests.


2. Mladic war crimes trial to resume in late June, Hague tribunal says


The suspended trial of former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal at The Hague will resume next month, Balkan Insight reports. The prosecution will call its first witness 25 June, the tribunal's Trial Chamber said 24 May.


Mladic100Ratko Mladic
Presiding Judge Alphons Orie adjourned the proceedings indefinitely 17 May after the defense complained that the prosecution had not turned over all the evidence against its client. Mladic's lawyer asked for a six-month delay, but the Trial Chamber ruled the disclosure mistake "very small or even non-existent," according to Balkan Insight.


Mladic is accused of 11 counts of genocide and war crimes during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. He had been on the run for over 15 years before being captured in northern Serbia last May.


Mladic maintains innocence, Radio Free Europe notes. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.


3. War of words in Ukrainian parliament


A debate about language turned violent in the Ukrainian parliament on 24 May, according to the Associated Press. Deputies were debating a bill that would allow Russian to be used as an official language in certain parts of the country when a fight erupted between members of the opposition and members of President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions who back the measure. The bill would allow state-run bodies such as courts and hospitals to use other languages besides Ukrainian in areas of the country where the majority of the population speak a different language, according to


One lawmaker, Mykola Petruk, from the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, was hospitalized from a blow to the head, Ukrainian News Agency reports. This is not the first fight to break out in the Ukrainian Rada. Several fights broke out in 2010, including one involving eggs and smoke bombs in a dispute over extending the Russian navy’s lease on its Crimean base.


Before the fight broke out opposition deputies argued that the bill would split the country in two and turn the Ukrainian-speaking west and the Russian-speaking south and east against each other, according to RIA Novosti.


Ukraine_parliament_brawlThe scene in the Ukrainian parliament on 24 May. Source:


4. Russian court convicts Muslim convert of terrorism


A Russian man was sentenced 24 May to 23 years in prison for terrorism, Radio Free Europe reports. A court in Stavropol convicted Viktor Dvorakovsky, a 24-year-old convert to Islam, on several charges, including attempted terrorism and illegal possession of explosives.


Russian police began hunting for Dvorakovsky after an explosive device went off in an apartment he had rented in Pyatigorsk, southern Russia, last March. When police caught up with Dvorakovsky in July, he threw several bombs at them, injuring one officer and blowing off his own hand, according to RFE.


Russian media dubbed Dvorakovsky “the Russian Wahhabi” for his supposed Islamic-inspired extremist beliefs.


5. Prague closes down Amsterdam-style brothel


Prague authorities have shut down a brothel near the city’s Wenceslas Square on complaints from residents that the business promoted itself by showcasing near-naked women in windows visible from the street, Czech Position reports. "Window sex shopping," as Czech Position puts it, is often associated with Amsterdam's red light district.


Following an inspection earlier this month, officials in the central Prague 1 district said the owner of the brothel did not possess proper permits for construction work ahead of its recent opening. On 24 May the district ordered the building’s occupants to leave, reports.


Though new to the Czech capital, Amsterdam-style brothels are not a novelty nationwide, Czech Position notes. Prostitution is tolerated in Prague and other Czech towns, notably on the German and Austrian borders.


S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor. Joshua Boissevain is a TOL editorial assistant.
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