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A court in the southwestern Russian city of Astrakhan has fined a Russian activist for "illegally obtaining a jar of caviar," RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Olga Kurnosova, the leader of the United Civil Front in St. Petersburg, was detained by police on October 4 last year while traveling by train to St. Petersburg from Astrakhan where she had attended a conference organized by the Russian opposition movement Solidarnost (Solidarity).

The police found a jar of caviar in her baggage and said it might have been illegally produced. Kurnosova explained that the caviar was a gift from friends.

The jar was confiscated and Kurnosova was asked not to leave St. Petersburg until an investigation was completed.

In May, Kurnosova was officially charged with the purchase and/or distribution of illegally obtained items. Astrakhan's Lenin district court found her guilty on November 12 and ordered her to pay the equivalent of $175 as a fine.

Her lawyer, Boris Gruzd, told RFE/RL he will appeal the verdict. Kurnosova considers the charges against her to be politically motivated because of her political activism.
Poet and women's rights activist Simin Behbahani walks past a banner reading, "One million signatures to change the biased laws" in Tehran. (file photo)
Iran's One Million Signatures campaign, which fights to gather public support against discriminatory laws in the country, has received the Women of the Year award from U.S.-based "Glamour" magazine.

The campaign is operating under a lot of pressure from Iranian authorities. As Glamour notes:

"Iran’s religious, conservative government sees the campaign as a real threat. Authorities have arrested more than 50 campaign members, who have been punished with everything from lashings to solitary confinement in prison. The group’s website has been shut down by the government 21 times. Members hold clandestine meetings in living rooms and basements, and activists say they are under constant surveillance and subject to phone taps."

Last year's recipient was Iranian human rights lawyer, and Nobel Peace Prize laureata, Shirin Ebadi.

Click here to see a video of the awards ceremony, hosted by CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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