Watchdog

Iranian Political Prisoner 'In Grave Condition' 

Arjang Davudi (file photo)

September 01, 2010

Iranian political activist Arjang Davudi, who launched a hunger strike in jail 50 days ago, is in a grave condition, his wife has told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Davudi was arrested in 2003 on charges of founding a political group called The Freedom Movement of Iranians. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Tehran's Gohardasht prison.

He began the hunger strike to protest the alleged violation of his rights.

"Arzhang‎'s friends informed me that he was taken to prison hospital last night," Davudi's wife, Nazanin Davudi, told Radio Farda this week. She said she was told Davudi could neither talk nor open his eyes.

She said the authorities had asked Davudi to sign a paper to the effect that he would be responsible for his life: "They asked my husband to sign a paper which said if anything happened to him, he would be responsible for it, but he refused to do so."

She added that the reason her husband went on hunger strike was that he was denied the right to make phone calls and placed in solitary confinement without any good reason by Gohardasht prison warden Ali Haj-Kazem: "He wrote a letter of complaint against Haj-Kazem to which no one paid any attention."

Nazanin Davudi said although she tried to visit her husband to persuade him to end his hunger strike, the prison warden prevented her from seeing him.

"Arzhang‎ is being punished for his hunger strike," she said. "If anything happens to him, the prison warden is responsible."


U.S. Concerned Over Attacks On Afghan Schoolchildren Video

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August 31, 2010

WATCH: One such suspected attack came on August 28, when 48 schoolgirls fell ill after a noxious gas filled their school and exits were blocked from the outside.

By RFE/RL

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said in a statement that the United States is "deeply concerned" by the recent poisonings of Afghan schoolchildren in Kabul.

She said that "while details of these attacks are still being verified, Afghan schools, teachers, and students, particularly girls, are regularly targeted by antigovernment elements seeking to destabilize Afghanistan and undermine progress."

Clinton urged the international community to continue to support Afghanistan's government in combating repression and violence against girls seeking an education.

Two schools in the Afghan capital, Kabul, were struck by apparent gas attacks that injured more than 100 schoolgirls, including one that sickened 60 students at a girls school on August 25 and another on August 28 that left 48 young girls in need of medical care.


Activist Detained In Belarus 

August 31, 2010

SALIHORSK, Belarus -- Police have detained a Belarusian activist in the central town of Salihorsk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Tatsyana Kuchynskaya was detained on August 31 while distributing booklets with the text of a presidential decree on property rents, as well as copies of "The Market And Us" newspaper with the logo of the "Tell the Truth" campaign.

She used her mobile phone while police were detaining her and told RFE/RL that she was also informing customers and traders in the city's agricultural market about a planned open gathering at the Kastrychnik market to discuss the decree.

A duty officer at Salihorsk district interior affairs department told RFE/RL Kuchynskaya was detained for distributing the newspaper and the booklet. According to the officer, it is up to experts to decide on their legality.

The Tell the Truth campaign, organized by the Moving Forward movement leader Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, encourages Belarusians to speak out about social problems.


Colleague Of Missing Ukrainian Journalist Slams Investigation 

An undated photo of Kharkiv journalist Vasyl Klymentyev, who went missing on August 11

August 30, 2010

A colleague of missing Ukrainian journalist Vasyl Klymentyev has described the investigation into his disappearance as "a farce," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Petro Matvienko, deputy chief editor of the weekly "Novy Stil" (New Style) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, told RFE/RL that investigators are not interested in finding Klymentyev.

Klymentyev, 66, has been missing since August 11.

Interior Minister Anatoliy Mohylyov said last week that Klymentyev was likely dead and that security forces are suspected of involvement in the disappearance.

Matvienko said that the investigations cannot be unbiased, as he and Klymentyev were preparing articles about "the illegal activities of Kharkiv Oblast Deputy Prosecutor Serhiy Khachatrian."

According to Matvienko, the police and prosecutor's office are connected, and therefore it is hard to believe that the investigation will shed any light on the case.

"The statements made by President [Viktor] Yanukovych and Interior Affairs Minister Mohylyov, saying that they have the investigations of Klymentyev's case under their personal control, are nothing but a PR action," said Matvienko.

He called Klymentyev's case "Gongadzegate," an allusion to independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, who was abducted and beheaded by unknown assailants in 2000. Three former police officers were jailed for killing Gongadze, but it has not been established who ordered the killing.

Klymentyev's relatives reported him missing on August 12. Police said preliminary investigations revealed that Klymentyev was last seen on August 11 near Kharkiv's Sportivna metro station, together with an unknown man, and that both of them got into a BMW automobile.

Matvienko said that on August 9, he and Klymentyev took photographs of mansions belonging to regional tax chief Stanislav Denisyuk and three other local officials, including a former Ukrainian State Security Service officer. They intended to use the pictures in an article to be published in the next issue of the paper.

Matvienko said he and Klymentyev met on the morning of August 11 to discuss the article and the photos. Later the same day, Matvienko said, he was not able to reach Klymentyev by phone.

Today is the International Day of the Disappeared.


Rights Defender Detained In Belarus 

August 30, 2010

Police in the western Belarusian city of Berastse detained prominent human rights activist Raman Kislyak today, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Kislyak was detained while distributing leaflets calling on local citizens to support the idea of Belarus joining the international coalition against enforced disappearances. Today is the International Day of the Disappeared. Several politicians and journalists have been missing in Belarus for a number of years.

The Berastse city authorities refused to allow Kislyak to distribute leaflets near the city's Lenin Square, so he did so, without permission, on Savet (Soviet) street.

Kislyak is currently being held in the police department of Berastse's Lenin district.


Ebadi Calls On UN To Take Up Jailed Iranian Journalist's Case 

Isa Saharkhiz is now reportedly confined to a wheelchair.

August 30, 2010

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has written a letter to the UN's high commissioner for human rights in support of jailed Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Saharkhiz was detained in mass arrests following the disputed presidential election in June 2009.

Ebadi told RFE/RL on August 29 that in her letter she asks the UN high commissioner, Navi Pillay, to take up Saharkhiz's case.

Ebadi said she believes that cases of abuse of human rights in Iran can and should be considered outside of the country, too, and even in international courts.

She said Saharkhiz had complained about prison conditions and his "illegal arrest by Iranian authorities."

On July 25 Saharkhiz had warned that if his complaint against several members of the Iranian government is not pursued, he would appeal to international bodies.

Ebadi told RFE/RL that Saharkhiz's family says his health has worsened and that he is confined to a wheelchair after being tortured in prison.

"I could not personally meet Mr. Saharkhiz as I am outside Iran. However, I have contact with Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mr. Saharkhiz's lawyer in Iran, and she told me that Mr. Saharkhiz's condition is bad," Ebadi tells RFE/RL. "She also confirmed [the authenticity of] Mr. Saharkhiz's letter to me from Evin prison, which was published on some websites.”

Ebadi said she hopes her letter to the United Nations will be effective and force the Iranian government to live up to its international obligations.

"Some day, the Iranian authorities have to let United Nations human rights rapporteurs go to Iran for inquiries. This letter asks that officials be allowed to meet prisoners like Mr. Saharkhiz, and not only Iranian officials."

Iran's judiciary has yet to issue a verdict in Saharkhiz's case.

Earlier this month, Saharkiz filed a lawsuit against Nokia Siemens, accusing the company of delivering surveillance equipment to Iran that helped the authorities trace his whereabouts through his cell phone.


Kazakh Rights Defender Jailed 

Vadim Kuramshin

August 30, 2010

A prominent human rights defender who has drawn attention to problems in Kazakhstan's prisons has been found guilty of hooliganism and sentenced to 10 days in jail, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Vadim Kuramshin was sentenced on August 29 by a court in Kokshetau in northern Kazakhstan for verbally insulting a man identified as Denis Sitsko.

Viktor Novikov, a leading member of the unregistered Algha (Forward) Party's branch in Kokshetau, told RFE/RL that the prosecutor first tried to charge Kuramshin with beating Sitsko but failed to provide any evidence to substantiate that charge. Kuramshin was, however, found guilty of insulting Sitsko.

According to Novikov, Kuramshin was taken to a jail in Kokshetau immediately after the verdict was pronounced.

On August 28, Kuramshin called RFE/RL and said that an unknown man had attacked him at a bus station in the city. He said he feared for his safety and freedom.

A prominent Kazakh rights activist and former prisoner, Kuramshin has for several months focused on the human rights situation in Kazakhstan's prisons. His colleagues say his sentencing is politically motivated.

In the last several weeks, numerous prisoners at several Kazakh prisons have self-mutilated themselves to protest poor conditions and alleged beatings and other abuse by prison guards. Kuramshin has served as a liaison between the inmates, their relatives, and the media.


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