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RFE/RL Review July 30, 2004

The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of July 24-30, 2004

RFE/RL's Afghan Service, known to its audience as Radio Free Afghanistan, was the first media outlet in Afghanistan to report on the shifts in the country's political landscape caused by Yunus Qanooni's surprise decision to challenge President Hamid Karzai in the upcoming presidential election. Afghan Service correspondents in Kabul were present in press conferences held by both Karzai and Qanooni on Monday, July 26. The correspondents filed reports on the surprises that emerged during both press conferences in Dari and Pashto and also provided audio material to the Prague-based journalists of News and Current Affairs (NCA) -- who subsequently filed a report on the events in English. This NCA report ( and related NCA coverage, including an analytical feature in English ( are available online at the RFE/RL website.
July 26 was the last day that candidates could register for Afghanistan's presidential election, scheduled for October. On that day, former Education Minister and key Northern Alliance member Yunus Qanooni unexpectedly announced that he would run in the election. Qanooni's announcement came within hours of an announcement by Karzai, who -- under pressure from the international community -- dropped Defense Minister and Northern Alliance commander Mohammad Fahim from his ticket. Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, chose instead to name as his first vice-presidential nominee Ahmad Zia Massoud, the younger brother of legendary mujahadeen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in September 2001.
Both Qanooni and Fahim are ethnic Tajiks and members of the influential Panjshiri faction. Fahim is now expected to back fellow Northern Alliance member Qanooni in the presidential campaign.

** The Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Andres Ilves, may be reached by email at <>.

On July 25, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who headed the legal team representing slain Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi's family, told Radio Farda that a court in
Tehran did not follow either the penal code and the trial law when it abruptly ended the trial of an intelligence agent accused of killing Kazemi while she was in custody. The same court also refused a request by the Kazemi family legal team for further investigation to identify the real perpetrators.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda broadcaster Fereydoun Zarnegar, Ebadi slams the Iranian judiciary for allowing such an investigation into the death while in policy custody of Kazemi. "We protested against the trial's venue, and we explained our problems with the investigation, which was incomplete, and moved the court to summon witnesses to testify, but the court did not pay attention to any of the issues we had raised," she says. A transcript and audio of the four-minute interview (in Persian) is available on RFE/RL's website at, while a summary of the interview in English is available at
Zahra Kazemi died on July 10, 2003 after suffering a blow to her head after she was arrested for taking photos outside of Tehran's infamous Evin Prison. The Iranian judiciary identified Intelligence Ministry agent Mohammad-Reza Aqdam Ahmadi as the killer and charged him with "semi-involuntary manslaughter," which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Ahmadi, the sole suspect in the case was cleared of murder charges on July 24.
On July 27, Iran's hardline judiciary claimed that, as a result of the acquittal of Aqdam Ahmadi, the possibility existed that Kazemi's death was in fact accidental.

** The Director of Radio Farda, Andres Ilves, may be reached by email at <>; Radio Farda's News Director, Mardiros Soghom, may be reached by email at <>.

The Macedonian subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) provided comprehensive coverage throughout the week to its listeners on the tensions that were sparked by the Macedonian parliament's debate of a controversial government plan to decentralize power in the country, in order to increase the level of representation of Macedonia's Albanian minority. Many ethnic Macedonians fear that the decentralization plan will lead to federalization or a split of the country along ethnic lines. A report in English on the dispute is available on RFE/RL's website at
In addition to live coverage of riots on July 23 in Struga and a large protest on July 26 in the capital city of Skopje, the Macedonian subunit secured an exclusive interview with Macedonian parliamentarian Trifun Kostovski, who is also a board member of the International Crisis Group. In an interview, Kostovski stated that "Macedonians are not against decentralization, and not against Albanians, but they are against the governmental plan to redraw the municipal boundaries in the towns were the Macedonian population makes slight majority in order to give control to Albanians". The interview was broadcast by the SSALS on July 25. A Macedonian-language transcript of the interview may be read on the service's website at

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service aired a roundtable as part of its "Debate in One Thousand Seconds" program on July 25 that looked into the issue of elections and power in the Kyrgyz Republic. Among the participants in the roundtable were Kyrgyz Central Election Commission (CEC) chairman Sulaiman Imanbayev, opposition party Jangy Kyrgyzstan (New Kyrgyzstan) leader Dosbol Nur-Uulu, and pro-governmental party Menin Oelkoem (My Country) member Avas Atakhanov. The roundtable debate brought out a wide range of opinion and provided Kyrgyz Service listeners a lively and thought-provoking program. The program can be heard in Kyrgyz on the service's website at
Imanbayev told RFE/RL that he supports the latest amendments to the Election Code, which were adopted in June by the lower house of the Kyrgyz parliament. He stated that, if the law is fully enacted, then the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections -- scheduled for February and November 2005, respectively -- will be transparent and fair. Imanbayev also noted that United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is helping Kyrgyzstan design a $320,000, 18 month-long project to strengthen voters' awareness of the new election law, the project cost being.
Nur-Uulu, on the other hand, accused the Election Commission of bias in the selection of representatives to new regional election commissions, saying that the only people chosen to sit on these commissions were members of pro-governmental parties. Imanbayev replied that these are among the only political parties (of the 44 officially registered in the Kyrgyz Republic) that are actively working in the regions. Nur-Uulu also asserted that the CEC shows favoritism for only a certain few of the pro-governmental parties, including the Alga Kyrgyzstan ("Forward, Kyrgyzstan!") and Menin Oelkoem parties.
Atakhanov, the representative of Menin Oelkoem, argued that his party is trying to be a governmental party, but that so far this status remains only a dream. Atakhanov then charged that some of the members of Kyrgyz Republic's opposition parties are nothing more than "bad university students who are waiting for a teacher's advice instead of taking the initiative on their own."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service aired an interview on July 27 with EU commissioner Janez Potocnik about the European Union's role in resolving the crisis in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester. Interview in English with Romanian voice-over can be heard on the service's website at
Potocnik, who is currently working closely with EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenther Verheugen, said that while the EU supports the current negotiations that involve Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Moldova and Transdniester, it will not play an active role in resolving the conflict. Potocnik added that the EU follows with great interest the conflict resolution process underway in the several countries of the EU's "new neighborhood".
The pro-Russian, self-proclaimed Transdniestrian Republic broke away from Romanian-speaking Moldova in 1990. The two sides fought a short war in 1992 that was quelled by Russian troops stationed in the region.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

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Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. "RFE/RL Review" is a weekly compilation of the best programming produced by the 19 services of the RFE/RL broadcast network. RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of programming a week in 28 languages to 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.

For more information about any of the stories mentioned in "RFE/RL Review," or to learn more about RFE/RL, please contact Martins Zvaners at <> or by calling +1-202-457-6948.