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KGB headquarters in Minsk
The leader of a Belarusian nongovernmental organization says KGB officials have been pressuring him to collaborate with the security service, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Mikalay Kvantaliani, the head of Minsk's Center for the Development of Volunteerism, wrote in a letter made public today that after applying on February 22 to register his NGO, a man who identified himself as Vital Mikalayevich from the KGB called him on March 5 and they met on March 16.

Kvantaliani said Mikalayevich told him his NGO would be officially registered only if he agreed to "collaborate with the KGB."

Kvantaliani wrote in his letter that the KGB officer told him many Belarusian organizations work with the KGB and in return receive many kinds of support, including financial.

The officer also warned, Kvantaliani wrote, that in the event Kvantaliani "refused to collaborate," he and his colleagues would be put on a "blacklist" and would not be able to register any organization or business.

Mikalayevich added that they would also be prevented from traveling abroad.

Kvantaliani wrote that after discussing the situation with his colleagues, the decision was made not to collaborate with the KGB and to give up trying to register their NGO.

The Justice Ministry is expected to soon decide whether to register Kvantaliani's NGO.

Kvantaliani added that after he started avoiding the man who called himself Mikalayevich, he got an SMS from Mikalayevich on March 19 that read: "I will come and search your home."

Kvantaliani wrote in his open letter that he then decided to make the entire story public.

Read more in Belarusian here
Secular activist Ebrahim Yazdi in a 2005 file photo
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reports that Ebrahim Yazdi, the 80-year-old head of a banned liberal party who was arrested in October, has been released from prison.

Yazdi was arrested in the city of Isfahan along with several other members of his Freedom Movement of Iran.

He also had been detained in June 2009 during the wave of unrest that followed the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, which the opposition in Iran said was the result of massive fraud.

compiled from agency reports

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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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