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Shiva Nazar Ahari (file photo)
There have been calls for the release of Iranian human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari, ahead of the scheduled start of her trial on September 4, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Ahari has been held in Tehran's Evin prison since December 2009 on charges of waging war against God (moharebeh), endangering national security, and antistate propaganda. If found guilty, she could face the death penalty.

The global advocacy group Human Rights Watch, the American Islamic Congress, and the National Iranian American Council have all issued calls for Ahari's release in recent days.

Faraz Sanei of Human Rights Watch told RFE/RL on September 2 that concern over Ahari's case is growing. He described the situation as "critical."

Sanei said the Iranian judiciary also claimed Ahari has links to the banned Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization. But he believes the main reason for the charges brought against her is her human rights activities.

"Shiva is a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, and as you know a few members of this committee were arrested following the June 2009 presidential election in Iran, and others fled the country, Sanei said, adding that Ahari's colleague Kouhyar Goudarzi was also in Evin prison.

On September 1, the American Islamic Congress named Ahari the recipient of its first Advocate Behind Bars award.

The award is given to outstanding civil-society activists who have demonstrated leadership, had an exceptional impact, and are unjustly imprisoned.

"Shiva Nazar Ahari is a courageous advocate for human rights and an inspiring role model for women in the region," American Islamic Congress Executive Director Zainab al-Suwaij said.

Suwaij urged the Iranian authorities to release Ahari immediately and drop all charges against her.
Police arrest a participant in the August 31 rally in Moscow.
MOSCOW -- A European Parliament deputy says she was shocked by police actions against peaceful demonstrators in Moscow on August 31, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Lithuanian Laima Andrikiene, the deputy chairwoman of the European Parliament's Human Rights subcommittee, was at Moscow's Triumph Square at the Strategy 31 demonstration attended by some 400 protesters.

Andrikiene was visiting Russia along with three other members of the European Parliament's Human Rights subcommittee. She attended the rally at the invitation of opposition United Citizens' Front member Andrei Nekrasov.

She said was surprised by the large number of police at the protest and the police officers' behavior in arresting some 70 demonstrators, who she said were picketing "peacefully."

Andrikiene said she plans to include the incident in a human rights report that will be issued by the European Parliament later this year.

The demonstration was one in a series held on the 31st day of the months with that many days. Protesters want to draw attention to Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.

Despite the constitutional guarantee, authorities have repeatedly refused to sanction Strategy 31 demonstrations.

Among those arrested on August 31 were opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, Eduard Limonov, and Sergei Udaltsov.

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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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