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Solidarity’s Cradle on the Skids, Tajikistan Opposition Candidate Bows Out of Election

Plus, activists plead with Ashgabat for information on those jailed for 2002 attempt on Niyazov’s life, and Russian troops step up work on a barrier between South Ossetia and Georgia.

by Ky Krauthamer and Alexander Silady 11 October 2013

1. Tajikistan opposition candidate drops out of presidential race

O. BobonazarovaOynihol Bobonazarova
The highest-profile candidate running against Tajikistan’s President Imomali Rahmon, in next month’s election, Oynihol Bobonazarova, withdrew from the race today, saying she had not managed to collect the required number of signatures to get on the ballot, RFE reports.


Presidential candidates must collect valid signatures from 210,000 voters, or 5 percent of the electorate.


“Many local experts say that the high number of signatures, in combination with a short period of time [for signature gathering], present significant obstacles to registering as a candidate,” Asia-Plus writes.


On 7 October the electoral commission extended the deadline to submit signatures until 10 October when several parties said they needed more time to collect signatures.


According to RFE, Bobonazarova has complained of official interference in her campaign.


Bobonazarova, a prominent human rights activist, was nominated by a coalition of the Islamic Revival and Social Democratic parties last month in what some observers saw as a bid to combine the support bases of two opposition groups that normally take different political lines.


Six candidates including Rahmon are registered to run in the 6 November poll, RFE reports.


2. Solidarity may soon be singing ‘Gdansk for the memories’


The owners of the Gdansk shipyard, the birthplace of the Solidarity labor movement that helped bring about the fall of communism in Poland, say the yard is in serious danger of going bankrupt, the Financial Times reports.


According to Ukrainian businessman Sergei Taruta, whose company owns a 75 percent stake in the shipyard, “only days” remain to save it, and keeping it afloat will cost some 180 million zlotys ($58 million).


Taruta and the Polish Treasury, which owns the remaining 25 percent, have blamed each other for the shipyard's woes. When Taruta's company bought the shipyard in 2007, it got 150 million zlotys in public funding but failed to make it profitable once more. The yard survived earlier bankruptcies in 1988 and 1996, according to the Financial Times.


About a third of the shipyard's 2,000 workers went on strike in late September in protest over irregular pay, according to the Associated Press. At its height, the shipyard employed 14,000 people.


Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who headed Solidarity during his time as an electrician at the shipyard in the 1980s, was brought in to mediate between Taruta's company and the government but says there is only about a 5 percent chance to save the yard, writes Polskie Radio.


The head of the Industrial Development Agency, which owns the state’s 25 percent stake, said recently the yard’s losses reached 375 million zlotys as of the end of June, and Treasurer Wlodzimierz Karpinski ruled out any more state aid to the yard.


Gdansk_shipyard_strikeA scene in the shipyard during the 1980 strike. Photo: Wikimedia Commons


3. Russia arrests accused author of notorious malware


A well-placed source says Russian police have arrested a hacker responsible for creating a widespread piece of malware that can be written into the source code of legitimate websites, Reuters reports.


The source said the criminal, alias “Paunch,” has been captured, but police have not provided details of when, where, or the man's real identity yet.


The hacker is thought to be the creator of Blackhole, a delivery mechanism for hidden software that can download malicious programs such as keystroke loggers, denial-of-service packets, and viruses on to any computer that visits an infected website.


Russia is often considered a haven for cyber-criminals because arrests and prosecutions like these are rare, according to Radio Free Europe.


Paunch is believed to have netted millions of dollars from the illicit sale of his software, but since his arrest, searches for Blackhole and another hacking program, Cool, have dropped dramatically, RFE writes, suggesting that cyber-criminals are now being more wary.


Meanwhile, Latvia has released one of its own accused illegal hackers, according to RIA Novosti. Deniss Calovskis had been in detention since December for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from U.S. bank accounts with the aid of a computer virus. He was due to be extradited, but his attorneys appealed to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that he could receive a disproportionately high prison sentence, and the Prosecutor General’s office ordered his release on 10 October.


4. Rights groups plead for information on jailed Niyazov plotters


A coalition of human rights groups is calling on Turkmen authorities to release information about dozens of people jailed more than a decade ago for attempting to assassinate then-President Saparmurat Niyazov.


Activists unveiled the “Prove They Are Alive” campaign last week at a meeting on human rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Warsaw.


By some estimates, a total of 55 people were convicted following an alleged attempt on Niyazov’s life in November 2002, Radio Free Europe writes. They included a former foreign minister, Boris Shikhmuradov, and a former Turkmenstani envoy to the OSCE, Batyr Berdiev.


"We simply have two purely humanitarian demands for the Turkmen authorities," journalist and campaign supporter Arkady Dubnov told RFE. "Tell [us] what happened to the prisoners and give [us] access to them."

"Ten years have passed and still the world doesn't know the details of the events, the condition of the prisoners," Dubnov said. "No one – [not] family members, lawyers, Red Cross representatives, or monitors – no one has ever been allowed to see them."


A statement prepared for delivery at the Warsaw meeting by U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Robert Bradtke reads, “We remain concerned about the lack of access to persons in prison [in Turkmenistan], including political prisoners. ... Finally, we still have no information on the health or whereabouts of former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov and our former OSCE colleague, Batyr Berdiev. We join the call made during Wednesday’s side event for Turkmenistan to 'prove that they are alive.' ”


5. South Ossetian fence causing frictions among Georgian leaders


Georgian authorities’ frustration over the fence Russia is erecting along the boundary with the breakaway South Ossetian region is causing friction this week, and not only in international forums.


On 10 October, Georgia’s foreign minister, Maia Panjikidze, raised the issue during her address to the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna.


Russian personnel began building the fence in 2011, three years after expelling Georgian troops and many civilians from the region in the five-day war of August 2008. Panjikidze said that since January Russian troops and border guards “have intensified the large-scale installation” of barbed-wire fences, which now stretch for 35 kilometers (22 miles) along the boundary of what Tbilisi claims as its sovereign territory. Russia and a handful of other countries recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Georgia’s other secessionist region of Abkhazia following the 2008 war.


In September Russian troops began erecting a barbed-wire fence through the village of Dvani, separating some residents from their fields and the village cemetery, RFE writes. Work on the fence in Dvani began in 2011 and resumed again in March after a pause brought about by local negotiations.


south ossetian border 350Barbed wire on the dividing line between South Ossetia and Georgia. Photo by Nino Chimakadze


Russia claims that South Ossetia is marking its boundaries according to maps from the Soviet era, when the district was an autonomous region of the Georgian Soviet Republic, according to RFE.


Small groups of people have been coming from Tbilisi to Dvani to protest the fence-building, but Georgian officials seem to be divided among themselves on how best to address the issue.


Outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili wants to convene the National Security Council tomorrow to discuss the issue, Georgia’s Messenger Online reports, but Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili said they would not attend the meeting. Ivanishvili’s office reportedly called the meeting a “PR stunt” by Saakashvili and said the government was working on a “real solution” to the dispute.



Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Alexander Silady is a TOL editorial intern.
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