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Abdolfattah Soltani
Amnesty International has called on Iran to "immediately and unconditionally" release prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani.

Soltani, who together with Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi co-founded a rights center, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison by an appeal court.

Rights watchdog Amnesty says Soltani has been pressured to "confess" on camera that his rights center had received funding from foreign sources to encourage a "soft revolution" in Iran -- which the lawyer denies.

Amnesty continues to call on Iranian authorities to allow human rights defenders carry out their work without fear of persecution or harassment.

Soltani who has been in jail since 2010, was first sentenced to 18 years in prison in March.

Several of Soltani's colleagues have been also sentenced to jail.
Access has been denied to the Asia-Plus website
DUSHANBE -- Internet access to Tajikistan's leading independent news agency Asia Plus remains cut off for a second day.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Tajik Communications Ministry official Beg Zuhurov claimed "maintenance reasons" were behind the loss of access, which began Tuesday.

Asia Plus, however, accuses authorities of blocking access because of some readers' comments, which were published on the website and seen by officials as being critical of authorities.

Asia Plus said negotiations are under way with officials to restore access, and the agency has pledged to publish its daily news bulletin on its Facebook page.

Earlier this year, Tajik officials blocked access to Facebook and several independent news agencies, citing "technical reasons."

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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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