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Maksim Popov
Evidence has emerged that an anti-AIDS campaigner in Uzbekistan was sentenced to seven years in prison after authorities deemed his brochure incompatible with local traditions.

Twenty-eight-year-old Maksim Popov, who heads anti-AIDS nonprofit Izis, was arrested in January 2009 and sentenced in September.

But details of the sentencing, in a country where information is tightly controlled, have come to light only recently.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports that Popov is currently serving his jail term in Uzbekistan's Navoi prison.

Izis is funded by a number of foreign donors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Britain's Department for International Development.

The Russian-language booklet at issue, "HIV and AIDS Today," gives detailed information about preventive measures to avoid the deadly disease, including the importance of sterile syringes for drug users and ways to practice safe sex. It explains, for example, how to use condom.

In a society where discussing sex is taboo, the court found the brochure amounted to a how-to guide for young people to have sex and use drugs.

The court declared the booklet's contents "illegal" and ordered all copies seized by police and immediately destroyed.

Strongman President Islam Karimov, who has ruled for more than 20 years, takes a dim view of dissent and authorities are highly suspicious of even apolitical NGOs.
A TV grab picture from Norwegian TV station NRK of Mohammed Reza Heydari
A former Iranian diplomat who resigned to protest Tehran's crackdown against opposition demonstrators says he and his family are being threatened and harassed by Iranian officials, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Mohammad-Reza Heydari resigned his post as consul at the Iranian Embassy in Norway last month. He told Radio Farda the Iranian government began harassing his relatives in Iran after he was granted political asylum by Norway last week.

Heydari said that despite those reprisals, he intends to continue his international campaign to publicize rights abuses in Iran. But he added that "the authorities have told me through their contacts and in phone calls that I'd be in trouble if I [continue to] do so."

Heydari said Iranian diplomats in England, Germany, and countries on the Indian subcontinent have also resigned to protest the Iranian government's treatment of the opposition following the disputed presidential election in June.

He said those diplomats are also seeking asylum but have not gone public with their grievances for fear of causing problems for their families in Iran.

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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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