Plus, Tymoshenko’s second trial is postponed and Slovakia asks Hungary to extradite accused war criminal Csatary.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Ioana Caloianu, Sofia Lotto Persio, and Ernad Halilovic 31 July 2012
Opposition parties are expected to run for all 450 seats up for grabs in the 28 October elections, RIA Novosti writes. A proportional, party list system will be used to fill half of the seats, with the rest being decided in first-past-the-post voting.
Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, the People’s Self-Defense party of former parliamentary speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and five smaller parties formed a united opposition bloc in April, RIA writes, adding that polls show the opposition running even with pro-government parties.
The opposition list also includes boxer Vitali Klitschko and soccer star Andriy Shevchenko, AFP reports.
Tymoshenko was expected to stand trial in another case beginning 31 July, but it was postponed until 14 August to give the defense time to consider a prosecution motion to allow Tymoshenko to participate via a video link, Radio Free Europe reports. Tymoshenko is accused of tax evasion in the 1990s when she headed an energy company. She had asked to be excused from the trial because of ill health.
A shootout in Almaty is again raising fears that terrorism is on the increase in Kazakhstan, EurasiaNet.org reports. Police shot dead six people 30 July as they attempted to arrest suspects in the killing of a police officer two days earlier. Authorities also suspect the group of robbery and other crimes and believe they may be religious extremists, the website reports.
Crime and terror attacks linked to religious groups are relatively rare in Kazakhstan, often described as Central Asia’s most prosperous and stable country, but the authorities suspected religious extremists of staging several violent incidents in 2011, EurasiaNet.org wrote in November.
In one of the most violent attacks, seven people died in the southern city of Taraz 12 November when a man blew himself up after a shootout with police.
An Islamist group called Jund al-Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks.
Prosecutors linked two bombings in October on the little-known jihadi organization. The organization claimed responsibility when a lone gunman killed three children and an Israeli-French teacher in Toulouse, France, in March, but some analysts question the group’s existence, EurasiaNet.org writes.
Some Slovak Jewish leaders want to see him tried in Kosice, Slovakia, where there may still be living witnesses to his alleged crimes. As a police commander in the city during World War II, Csatary is accused of participating in the deportation – and subsequent killing – of almost 16,000 Jews to Ukraine and Poland. Kosice, the second largest city in Slovakia, was annexed by Hungary in 1938 along with other mostly Hungarian-speaking areas of southeastern Czechoslovakia. The territories were returned to Czechoslovakia after the war.
"We have one of the last chances to punish World War II crimes," Reuters quoted Slovak Justice Minister Tomas Borec as saying 30 July.
Csatary was convicted in absentia of war crimes by a Czechoslovak court in 1948 and given a death sentence. Slovak Justice Ministry State Secretary Monika Jankovska told Reuters the sentence would likely be life imprisonment if he were convicted in Slovakia, where the death penalty is now illegal.
Ten Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia’s Chuvash Republic were charged with extremism and incitement of religious hatred 30 July, The Moscow Times reports. They are accused of distributing books and pamphlets included on the federal list of extremist literature in four towns in the region. The newspaper cites investigators as saying the Jehovah's Witnesses have been active in the region since November 2009, spreading a religious message that denies “traditional cultural and moral values.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses have often faced legal difficulties in Russia. In November the leader of the church’s Altai regional group was sentenced to 100 hours of community service after being convicted of extremism for spreading materials that discredited other religions. A Russian law passed in 2002 against religious extremism has been used to restrict the activities of religious groups and to shut down the Jehovah’s Witnesses Moscow group in 2004. A Moscow court upheld the ban even though the European Court of Human Rights declared it illegal, Forum 18 reported in 2011.
U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made a stop in Poland as part of an international campaign tour to boost his foreign policy credentials and pick up support from former President Lech Walesa, according to Reuters. Romney met with Walesa, who led the outlawed Solidarity union under the communist regime, in Gdansk on 30 July. Solidarity was instrumental in undermining the communist regime in the 1980s.
Current Solidarity leadership, however, distanced themselves from the meeting and made it known they were not as thrilled to see Romney as their former leader was. In a statement published on its website, the group accused Romney of backing moves in the United States to weaken trade unions and limit labor rights and said it had nothing to do with the meeting. Walesa left Solidarity in 2006 after falling out with his former political allies, Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski.
Romney, who has been critical of President Barack Obama’s recent “reset” with Russia, also met Prime Minister Donald Tusk 30 July and was expected to talk with President Bronislaw Komorowski on 31 July, the final day of his visit.