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Vital Rymasheuski following the clashes in Minsk on December 19.
One of the five opposition presidential candidates arrested during mass protests that followed Belarus's election last month has been released from jail, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Vital Rymasheuski was released overnight on December 31-January 1 on condition that he not leave the city.

A colleague from Rymasheuski's Belarusian Christian Democracy party confirmed the news.

Denis Sadovski of the party said that Rymasheuski was expected to be questioned by the State Security Committee again on January 4.

His release was reportedly intended to allow him an opportunity "to write an explanatory note to [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka," according to RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

Rymasheuski planned to hold a press conference on January 4 but that event was canceled, reportedly because such public statements could contravene the terms of his release.

Rymasheuski and four other candidates who ran against incumbent President Lukashenka have been charged in connection with the demonstrations that broke out in Minsk after the December 19 vote that officials say gave Lukashenka a fourth term.

They could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

More than 600 people were detained in the bloody crackdown on postelection protesters.

OSCE Working To Continue Belarus Work

Meanwhile, the OSCE chairperson in office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, says that chairmanship has begun consultations to find a solution that would enable the OSCE to continue its work in Belarus.

Azubalis said he "deeply regrets" that Belarusian authorities did not extend the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk.

Azubalis said the OSCE "started informal consultations to find an agreement acceptable to all."

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley questioned Minsk's decision to shutter the OSCE office in the wake of the December 19 vote.

"The United States deeply regrets the government of Belarus's decision to terminate the mission of the OSCE office in Minsk," Crowley said. "It was founded to assist the Belarusian government in institution-building, promoting the rule of law, and encouraging outreach to civil society, and the mandate of that mission is not completed, as the OSCE's critical assessment of the presidential elections indicates."

Crowley called the expulsion "a step backwards in the development of democratic government and respect for human rights in Belarus."

The OSCE has maintained a presence in Minsk since 1998.

Its mandate must be renewed annually by the 56 OSCE participating states, and expired on December 31 after Belarusian authorities refused to extend it.

based on RFE/RL and agency reports
Journalist Nazanin Khosravani in an undated photograph
The family of a jailed Iranian journalist has been allowed to visit her for the first time in nearly two months, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Nazanin Khosravani, who was detained on November 3, had had no contact with her family since the arrest, except for a brief phone call to her mother during which she was able to say she was being held in solitary confinement in Branch 209 of the notorious Evin prison located outside of Tehran.

Khosravani had in previous years worked for several pro-reform newspapers but, according to her mother, had been out of work for about 18 months before her arrest.

The family was able to visit Khosravani at Evin prison on December 30. Family members told Radio Farda that Khosravani was in good spirits.

Khosravani's mother, Azam Afsharian, told Radio Farda after the visit: "I was told at first that [my daughter] was forbidden to have visitors, but later upon our request for confirmation [of her detention] we were finally granted a visit."

"My daughter was in great spirits, but as she has a heart condition she said she was extremely worried regarding her medication as the pills that she needs were not delivered to her on time," Afsharian told Radio Farda.

She said her daughter had also not received the winter clothes she had sent to prison officials to give to her.

Afsharian added that her daughter is also in good physical condition, though she is worried about her trial.

"The first thing she asked me was when her court session is scheduled," Afsharian said. "She said she was interrogated about 11 days ago and had not been given any information about a court date."

The charges against Khosravani were initially not given, but Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said about 10 days ago that she was charged with "acting against national security" and "propaganda against the government."

Afsharian said, "[My daughter's] lawyer had no access to the case file up until now as it was being held by prosecutors at Evin prison. Though now that charges have been announced the file should be transferred to other courts where access [by her lawyer] would be granted."

Afsharian said she and her daughter are surprised the case files have not yet been transferred to a court.

Afsharian told Radio Farda that both she and her daughter reject the charges and they hope the matter will be fairly resolved in court.

"Nazanin told me that the prosecutor had met with her on his visit to the prison and that he was extremely polite to her in discussing her case," Khosravani's mother said. "Nazanin denied the charges to the prosecutor and was given hope for a resolution of this issue."

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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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