1. Bagapsh inaugurated as president of Abkhazia
Sergei Bagapsh was sworn in on Friday for his second term as president of Abkhazia, thanking Russia in his inaugural address for helping the republic achieve independence from Georgia. …Bagapsh was re-elected as Abkhazia’s president on December 12, 2009, winning with over 60% of the vote in the republic’s first presidential election since Russia recognized its independence in August 2008 after a brief war with Georgia..
Bagapsh, 60, has been president of the former Georgian republic since January 2005.
The U.S. Department of State said the elections were illegitimate, while Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili condemned the vote as an illegal Kremlin-backed gesture in an “occupied territory.”
Russia is the guarantor of Abkhazia’s security with several thousand troops in the region under bilateral security and cooperation agreements signed since August 2008. Abkhazia’s independence has been recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.
2. runaway journalist gathered shocking videos about South Ossetia
Vakhtang Komakhidze, a well-known Georgian journalist, who requested political asylum in Switzerland, has shocking materials about South Ossetia, received in the course of his journey to the region in December 2009.
He managed to record “scandalous interviews, videos that can shake”, and the government of Georgia doesn’t want these to be published, said Nana Kakabadze, the human rights activist, in her interview to the Alia newspaper.
She added Komakhidze made his decision to request a political asylum in the airport of Tbilisi, when realized he was watched by Interior Ministry representatives - the VZGLYAD.
The human rights activist explained that in Switzerland he must have interviewed one of the judges of the Hague Tribunal. Now he plans to complete his film in that country. Komakhidze stated he made this decision as he couldn’t perform his professional duties in Georgia. He also mentioned threat to health and lives of himself and his family. Komakhidze explains his decision by menaces from the authorities.
3. photographer on trial for showing real life in Uzbekistan
TASHKENT (Uzbekistan) - AN AWARD-WINNING Uzbek photographer went on trial for slander Tuesday after her work documenting the daily struggles of ordinary people in the Central Asian state landed her in hot water.
Umida Akhmedova, 54, stands accused of portraying people in the ex-Soviet nation as backward and impoverished in a collection of her photographs and a documentary film, both financed by the Swiss embassy in Tashkent….Akhmedova put the blame for the trial not on the government, but on an expert panel it had convened to analyze her work. The panel concluded in its report that the ‘photo album does not conform to aesthetic demands,’ a throwback to Soviet jargon, and that it would damage the country’s ’spiritual values’. The trial sets a chilling precedent for artists, said Surat Ikramov, head of the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan. — AFP
4. Russian court extends pretrial detention of oligarchs
A Moscow court ordered on Friday that Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev spend another three months in harsh pretrial detention rather than return to regular jail.
Khodorkovsky, 45, and Lebedev, 42, are already serving eight-year prison terms for tax evasion and fraud issued by a Moscow court in 2005 after a highly politicized trial seen by many in the West as part of a Kremlin drive to subdue politically ambitious business tycoons.
Both were moved in 2009 from prison in Siberia to Moscow’s notorious Matrosskaya Tishina jail to face new charges of embezzling 350 million tons of oil. Since then, their stay in the pretrial detention center has been repeatedly prolonged despite complaints from their lawyers.
Moscow’s Khamovniki District Court on Friday authorized keeping Khodorkovsky and Lebedev in pretrial detention until May 17.
“The court took into account the severity of the charges Khodorkovsky and Lebedev face when considering extending their detention,” presiding judge Viktor Danilkin said.
Russian officials have consistently denied any political motivation behind their convictions, but the fate of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev is still viewed by Russia-watchers abroad as an indicator of the state of Russia’s judicial system.
5. Thailand drops arms case and releases Kazakhs — no decision on what to do with the seized weapons
BANGKOK - THAILAND said on Thursday it had decided to drop a case against the five member crew of a plane carrying sanctions-busting weapons from North Korea.
‘The trial here will not benefit Thailand so we have decided to drop the charges,’ said Thanapich Mulapruk, spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, in a statement. ‘Their countries of origin want to try the men in their home countries,’ he said.
Another official from the attorney general’s office said the Belarussian pilot and four Kazakh crew would not be formally extradited. ‘(We) are sending an official to file a petition with the court to release all five men,’ Kayasit Pissawanprkan told reporters. ‘This is not an extradition but we consider them as having entered (Thailand) illegally.’