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Emin Milli (left) and Adnan Hajizada
Relatives of two Azerbaijani bloggers jailed in a case condemned by rights groups have appealed to U.S. President Barack Obama to press for their release during talks with Azerbaijan's leader Ilham Aliyev.

The families of Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli, jailed last year, issued an open letter to Obama asking him to raise the case during talks with Aliyev scheduled for September 24 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

In their appeal, the families called on Obama to come "to the defense of free speech and fairness."

Hajizada, a video blogger and member of the opposition OL! movement, and activist and blogger Milli, were jailed in November 2009 for 24 and 30 months for hooliganism after an alleged brawl in a cafe.

Their supporters say they were victims of an unprovoked attack, imprisoned as a warning to other activists after posting a satirical swipe at the authorities in which Hajizada held a fake news conference dressed as a donkey.

Rights groups say the charges were fabricated and the trial flawed.

with Reuters reporting
Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi
The family of dissident Iranian cleric Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi has written to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking him to address human rights violations in Iran at the 65th session of the UN General Assembly that opens today, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

A supporter of the separation of religion from the state, Boroujerdi was arrested in October 2006 on charges including "enmity with God" and "spreading propaganda against the Islamic republic." He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The letter says that due to physical and mental torture, Boroujerdi has developed a heart condition, kidney disease, and respiratory problems; he has also lost 80 percent of his vision as a result of a torn retina.

"The judicial authorities have not only deprived him of medical treatment but also refused to give us his medical records solely because he still perseveres in his beliefs and continues his activities in prison," his family says in the letter.

The letter also says that Boroujerdi has written several times to the UN secretary-general and other international authorities, but to no avail.

One of Boroujerdi's relatives, who asked to remain anonymous, told Radio Farda on September 22: "Our request to the UN secretary-general is that he send a representative from the UN to visit Ayatollah Boroujerdi in jail to see in what conditions he is kept merely for expressing his opinion."

"Whenever he objects to the deplorable conditions in the jail, he is persecuted," Boroujerdi's relative continued. "For instance, once he was beaten for complaining about finding a lizard in his food."

Addressing Ban Ki-moon, the letter says, "We urge you to prioritize during the 65th UN General Assembly Summit addressing the issues of increasing human rights violations in Iran and saving the lives of prisoners in this country."

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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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