MOSCOW, May 2 (RIA Novosti)
Terrorists Planned to Blow Up Bridge in Moscow
Moscow’s Ostankino district court has sentenced two members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir international terrorist organization to two and a half years in prison for illegal possession of an improvised explosive device. Their leader, Akmal Gafurov, remains under investigation.
On October 20, 2010, Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives and commandos raided an abandoned building near Moscow’s Prospekt Mira and arrested three immigrant workers from Tajikistan. The building was being used as an improvised dormitory. Apart from propaganda materials and religious literature, a homemade bomb and detailed photos of a Moscow bridge were found inside the building.
The bomb was brought to the makeshift hostel by a man named Akmal Gafurov, who intended to carry out a terrorist act in Moscow. His accomplice, Akbardzhon Otaboyev, testified that Gafurov headed the Moscow section of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Gafurov told Otaboyev to take pictures of a railway bridge in Moscow and the area surrounding it. The planned terrorist act was in revenge for the arrests of the organization’s members in Russia.
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has opened a criminal case under an article in the Criminal Code on the illegal storage of explosives. Gafurov, Otaboyev and their accomplice, Alisher Otadzhonzade, have been indicted in the case. Gafurov has reportedly entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors and has disclosed the activities of the organization.
As a result, the FSB is continuing to investigate his case separately. Gafurov will probably be the only defendant to be sentenced under the terrorism clause. Otaboyev and Otadzhonzade have already served a sufficient length of time in jail and are due to be released in November 2012.
Internet Gives Russians Free Access to Information
Russians are gaining better access to uncensored information as conventional media get pushed aside by the ever-growing social networks on the Internet, according to an annual report.
The report, Freedom of the Press 2012, was released on May 1 by Freedom House, an independent human rights watchdog. Established in 1941, Freedom House is financed by the U.S. government and a number of non-government foundations. It monitors the state of media freedom around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights. Its press freedom reports, published annually since 1980, use open sources to monitor the freedom of print media, television, radio and online media in over 190 countries.
Its most recent report, which surveys changes in 2011, says there was no overall decline in the freedom of the global media for the first time in eight years. Of the 197 countries assessed during 2011, a total of 66 were rated Free, 72 were rated Partly Free, and 59 were rated Not Free.
The ranking was topped by the same three countries as last year: Finland, Norway and Sweden. The bottom three were Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and North Korea. Incidentally, the United States dropped five places from 17 to 22, as Freedom House analysts believe that country’s economic problems have affected its independent media.
Russia improved on last year’s performance, climbing one place to 172 – level with Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe – in the group’s ranking with regard to political rights and civil liberties. The analysts believe the improvement is linked to the growing number of Internet users, including users of social networking sites. At the same time, they are convinced that the Russian government is setting up its own media outlets which are actively gaining dominance of the satellite TV and Internet media landscape. Moreover, the authorities in China, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela have used a variety of techniques to maintain a tight grip on the press, including detaining and jailing critics, closing down media outlets, and bringing legal cases against journalists.
Ivan Zasursky, the new head of the media department at Moscow University’s School of Journalism, generally agreed with Freedom House analysts. A balance has been established between the conventional and online media around the world, he said: “In Russia the authorities have been working to tighten their grip on major broadcast outlets. However, while they have succeeded in extending their control on the conventional media, that approach hasn’t worked for the Internet, and probably never will.” However, although the situation does not appear to have gotten any worse, it hasn’t improved either, Zasursky added.
Yulia Tymoshenko’s Husband and Daughter Fear for Her Life
Olexander Tymoshenko, the husband of Ukraine’s former prime minister, who is serving a seven-year sentence in connection with the so-called gas case, has published a letter to his jailed wife asking her to end her hunger strike.
“Life is only given to us once. We have devoted our lives to making our country better and the lives of Ukrainians happier,” writes Tymoshenko. “We have faced many obstacles on this path, but we overcame them together and won through. We have always believed in our future,” he writes to his wife.
Yulia Tymoshenko has been on hunger strike for over 10 days. “A heart that has always radiated joy and hope could stop beating at any moment,” he wrote. He believes this would benefit “only one person, the current president Viktor Yanukovych, who is continuing his use of torture and abuse to bring about her physical destruction.”
“I am asking my wife and the mother of our daughter, Yevgenia, to end her hunger strike. This government will soon be gone, just like the fog that is blinding the eyes of the people who have voted for a criminal with two convictions to his name and who issues orders to beat up women in prison,” he added.
Yevhenia Tymoshenko said her mother’s condition had worsened. She said she saw her two days ago and that her back pains had intensified. Tymoshenko needs urgent treatment at a foreign clinic, she added.
The German Foreign Ministry has been in talks with Ukraine in a bid to allow Tymoshenko to receive treatment in Berlin’s Charite Clinic. Dr. Karl Max Einhaupl, the head of the clinic, has urged Yanukovych to “be a president who respects humanitarian values” and allow Tymoshenko to travel to Europe.
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