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Mohammad Mostafaei at a news conference in Oslo, Norway, where he has applied for asylum, on August 8
Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi has said that a human rights lawyer who fled Iran last month, charging that officials were harassing him for his vigorous defense of a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, is accused of "financial fraud."

Mohammad Mostafaei defended Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose case has garnered international attention and whose sentence has been indefinitely suspended.

"This lawyer had been under prosecution for a long time," Dowlatabadi said, "that's why he ran away to foreign countries."

In an recent RFE/RL interview, Mostafaei said he fled Iran after officials detained close relatives, including his wife. Mostafaei told RFE/RL that he had been questioned over his work -- including his defense of juvenile offenders on death row -- and a bank account that he says he set up to help pay blood money to their victims' families.

In an interview today, Mostafaei rejected the accusation by the prosecutor and said that opening an account for charity purposes is not a crime.

Amnesty International spokesman Drewery Dyke has called the exile of Mostafaei a blow to human rights in Iran.

In recent years, a number of lawyers defending sensitive cases have come under pressure by Iranian judicial authorities.

Dowlatabadi on August 10 accused "counterrevolutionary websites" of having launched a "psychological war" against the Iranian judicial system by publishing what he described as false news and rumors.

"For example," Dowlatabadi said, "a prisoner was quoted saying that he had been 'dishonored,' but after an investigation the individual said the [allegation] was not true."

He was apparently referring to the case of jailed journalist Abdolareza Tajik, who reportedly told his sister that he had been "dishonored" in prison in the presence of a deputy prosecutor.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
Akbar Ganji
Prominent Iranian journalist and dissident Akbar Ganji was today declared a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute for his courageous journalistic work in Iran.

Ganji spent six years in prison in Iran for a 1999 series of articles on the government's ties to the systematic assassinations of intellectuals and dissidents in the 1980s and the '90s.

Ganji continued to write while in prison, and his best-selling book "The Dungeon of Ghosts" is credited with helping defeat of a number of conservative candidates in the 2000 elections.

He was released in 2006 and immediately left the country.

His first book in English, "The Road to Democracy in Iran," was published in 2008.

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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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