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Flowers near the photo of slain journalist and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova in Moscow in August 2009
A media rights watchdog has urged Russia to publish details of its probe into the murder of a rights worker after the Russian press reported that suspects had been identified.

The murder of human rights worker Natalya Estemirova in the volatile Chechnya region, where she was a vocal critic of hard-line Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, sparked international condemnation, and pledges that her killers would be caught.

"For seven months, authorities have been silent about their efforts to solve the brutal slaying of our colleague and we call on them now to further publicize their progress," Nina Ognianova of the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement.

Estemirova, 50, was kidnapped in July in Russia's volatile Chechnya region and shot. Her body was dumped in woodland in neighboring Ingushetia.

News reports this week cited investigators as saying a suspect had been identified.

Rights workers say the slow investigation is symptomatic of Russia's endemic corruption and lawlessness.

Estemirova worked at the Russian human rights group Memorial.

Kadyrov, an ex-rebel turned Kremlin loyalist, is accused of torture and abductions by rights groups -- charges he has repeatedly denied.

CPJ says 19 journalists have been murdered for their work since 2000 in Russia, which it ranks as the fourth most dangerous country for reporters after Iraq, the Philippines and Algeria.

-- Reuters
A small group of reformist members of Iran's parliament want the government to release imprisoned journalists and political activists before the Persian New Year on March 21, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Amin Shabani, a member of the reformist faction, described the request in an interview with the "Etemad" newspaper on February 25. He said the parliament should ask the judiciary to release those arrested during postelection unrest in cases where the judiciary has no evidence against those being held.

"The continuation of these people being held in custody without any clear evidence against them will increase concern within society," Dariush Ghanbari, the spokesman for the reformist deputies, said.

Since Iran's disputed June election, authorities have launched a crackdown on journalists and political activists. It is estimated that hundreds remain in custody waiting to be charged.

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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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