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The latest from Freedom House:

Dictators come up with some pretty lame excuses for abusing the rights of their citizens. And these excuses get taken way too seriously. Dictators want us to believe that what they do is about the same as what happens in the United States or in European Union countries. It isn’t. In the following blog post we look at some of the most common claptrap dictators throw at us.

Freedom House strongly condemns the conviction of Russian corruption fighter and opposition figure, Alexey Navalny, in a trial and prosecution clearly staged to derail his political career. Navalny, 37, who became famous for investigations of government corruption on his blog, vocal criticism of the Russian government, and unconventional grassroots organizing activities, was sentenced today to five years in prison on charges of theft.

Many observers have compared the recent Turkish antigovernment protests to those in Russia in late 2011 and early 2012. In both cases, the social unrest followed a serious decline in civil liberties and political freedoms under increasingly imperious national leaders, prompting some to warn of the “Putinization” of Turkey.

Freedom House is deeply disturbed and outraged by the torture and killing of Cameroonian LGBTI activist, Eric Lembembe and urges authorities at the highest level to condemn violence against the LGBTI community and to take appropriate measures to bring those responsible for this sadistic murder to justice.

The White House announced last week that President Obama will be hosting the president of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang, on his first visit to Washington on July 25. The meeting appears to fall under the U.S. administration’s Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy, or Asia Pivot, which is aimed in large part at addressing the rising regional tensions associated with China’s political and economic pressure on its smaller neighbors. While stepping up its dialogue with Beijing, the United States is strengthening ties with allies and other countries in East and Southeast Asia. But unlike most of these partners, Vietnam remains a repressive one-party state and has done little, by way of democratic reform, to earn a presidential invitation.

Four years ago, Natalya Estemirova was abducted and shot to death in an attack suspected to have come as a result of her work as a human rights defender and journalist. Freedom House remembers her today and condemns Russian authorities’ continued “inability” to identify the perpetrators.  

On June 17, two policemen came to the home of 71-year-old Hasan Choriev in Qarshi, Uzbekistan. They asked him to come to the prosecutor’s office for a “conversation.” No one has seen him since.