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Narges Mohammadi
Another colleague of Shirin Ebadi has gone on trial for being a member of a rights group set up by the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Lawyer Narges Mohammadi is the deputy head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), which is headed by Ebadi.

In an interview with Radio Farda on June 28, Mohammadi said three charges were raised against her at a court hearing -- her second -- on June 27. They are: "being a member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center;" "spreading propaganda against the regime;" and "assembly and collusion with intent to commit crimes against national security."

Mohammadi added that she has already denied the charges. She also said that the court session was closed and without a jury.

Mohammadi was arrested by security forces in June 2010, and released on bail three weeks later.

Mohammadi said she was arrested on a charge of membership of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, even though the center is a legal institution under Iranian law.

The fact that the center failed to obtain a permit to engage in activities does not mean that it is illegal, because an institution can also be unofficial, Mohammadi said.

She pointed out that there are institutions subordinate to the Iranian government that are politically active, for instance during elections, but have not even requested registration.

She questioned why such institutions are not similarly considered illegal and no action is taken against them.

Since the disputed June 2009 presidential election, several cofounders and members of the Defenders of Human Rights Center have been imprisoned, including lawyers Mohammed Ali Dadkhah and Abdolfatah Soltani, and journalist Abdolreza Tajik.

Mohammadi was the winner in 2009 of the International Alexander Langer Award for those demonstrating outstanding civil, cultural, or social commitment.

Read more in Persian here
Former Kyrgyz security agent Aldayar Ismankulov, who is accused of murdering journalist Gennadi Pavlyuk
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Witnesses who live in Kyrgyzstan have refused to come to the Kazakh city of Almaty for the trial of three people accused of killing an independent Kyrgyz journalist, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Gennady Pavlyuk, 51, was thrown from the sixth floor of an Almaty building on December 16, 2009, with his arms and legs bound. He died in hospital six days later.

Lawyers involved in the trial of the three men charged with murdering Pavlyuk said the statements from the Kyrgyz witnesses were read at the trial, which is currently being held.

The attorneys indicated that, for different reasons, none of the witnesses from Kyrgyzstan will participate in the court proceedings.

Meanwhile, Svetlana Murzina, the lawyer of one of the defendants, former Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security agent Aldayar Ismankulov, told RFE/RL she doubts that the statements used in court were written by the Kyrgyz witnesses.

One of the witnesses, Omurbek Tekebaev, the leader of Kyrgyzstan's Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, told RFE/RL on June 27 that he could not go to Almaty because of the busy schedule in parliament, where he is a deputy.

Tekebaev added that he has already given testimony twice, and it can easily be read in court without him being present.

Murzina told RFE/RL that no evidence proves the guilt of her client and the charges against him are based solely on Tekebaev's testimony, who suggested that Ismankulov killed Pavlyuk to carry out an order from Maksim Bakiev, the son of the ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev who was a powerful government official during his father's term in office.

Murzina added that Maksim Bakiev, who fled the country after his father was overthrown last year, has not been questioned as a witness. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Ismankulov claimed earlier that he was framed by political groups in Kyrgyzstan who want to reap political dividends from Pavlyuk's death. He also said that Tekebaev has an interest in framing him. Tekebaev has denied those accusations.

The other two defendants in the murder trial are citizens of Kazakhstan: Almaz Igilikov and Shalqar Orazalin. They both claim they are innocent.

An ethnic Russian, Pavlyuk was known in Kyrgyzstan under the pseudonym Rustam Ibragimbek.

He founded the "White Steamer" newspaper and website and wrote for the newspaper "Vecherny Bishkek" and the Russian weekly "Argumenty i fakty."

Pavlyuk's relatives and colleagues in Kyrgyzstan have alleged that his murder was politically motivated as he was working with the opposition against President Bakiev and his regime. He had also received many personal threats in the period before he was killed.

But Kazakh investigators claim his killing was an ordinary crime that may have involved a robbery and had nothing to do with politics.

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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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