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Demonstrators support Sergei Makhnatkin in Moscow
Some 100 activists from the Russian opposition movement Solidarity have gathered in central Moscow to protest what they say is the unfair jailing of a man, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Sergei Makhnatkin was sentenced on June 9 to 2 1/2 years in jail for allegedly breaking a policeman's nose during a December 31 protest in Moscow that was forcibly dispersed by police.

Opposition leaders and Makhnatkin himself have said repeatedly that he was not participating in the protest, but only stopped to defend an elderly woman who was being harassed by police.

Sergei Davidis, a Solidarity movement leader, told RFE/RL that the protest on July 13 was held to bring attention to the plight of political prisoners in Russia.

The protest follows a demonstration by more than 100 people for Makhnatkin in St. Petersburg on July 12.

Representatives of several oppositions parties including Defense, Yabloko, and the Partnership of Determined Russian Citizens gathered around a giant banner reading "Freedom for Sergei Makhnatkin."

Olga Kurnosova, leader of the opposition United Civil Front, told RFE/RL that what happened to Makhnatkin was related to what happened to two organizers of the art exhibition "Forbidden Art," who were recently convicted, and could happen to any Russian citizen.

"In Russia, courts think that lawyers and police officers never lie," she said. "Even if the truth was on tape they wouldn't watch it in the courtroom."

Protesters in St. Petersburg said that next week they will start gathering signatures and sending out mass e-mails in support of Makhnatkin.
Journalist and activist Abdolreza Tajik
The whereabouts of prominent Iranian human rights activist and journalist arrested last month are still unclear, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Parvin Tajik, the sister of activist Abdolreza Tajik, told Radio Farda on July 7 that her brother was arrested on June 12 after being summoned to Tehran's Intelligence Ministry Office.

Parvin Tajik said the family has not heard from her brother since then, saying they have not even had a "phone call."

"When I eventually managed to meet with Tehran's prosecutor, he strangely enough claimed to be ignorant of my brother's whereabouts," Parvin Tajik said.

She added that the prosecutor asked her when and why Abdolreza Tajik was arrested.

"The prosecutor is the only legal authority who can issue arrest warrants," Parvin Tajik noted. "His ignorance [about the case] shows that my brother's arrest was against the law and can therefore be considered an abduction."

She said it also shows that her brother's life is in danger.

Parvin Tajik said she went to look for her brother at Tehran's Evin prison, the notorious jail where political prisoners are often kept. She said she was told her brother's name was not registered at the institution.

Parvin Tajik said she still does not know the charges on which her brother was arrested after he was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry.

A member of the Tehran-based Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), Abdolreza Tajik's latest detainment was the third time he has been arrested since the June 2009 presidential election.

Abdolreza Tajik was first taken into custody shortly after the election and released after 46 days in Evin prison. He was rearrested on December 29.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who is also the head of the DHRC, told Radio Farda on July 5 that she has grave concerns about Abdolreza Tajik's condition.

"If anything happens to him, [Iran's] judiciary chief is directly responsible," Ebadi said

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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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