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Iran has reacted angrily to criticism of the country's recent executions of up to 20 people.

State media quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi on August 6 as accusing the West of meddling in internal Iranian affairs.

"While Iran is itself a victim of terrorism, it will do its best to maintain the safety of its citizens," Ghasemi said.

Ghasemi said the 20 men had murdered innocent civilians and spread terror.

Reports suggested that most -- if not all -- of those hanged this week were Sunni Muslims from the Kurdish community.

On August 5, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described the executions as "a grave injustice," saying they followed "the application of overly broad and vague criminal charges, coupled with a disdain for the rights of the accused to due process and a fair trial."

Iran, which is predominantly Shi'ite, executed at least 977 people last year, according to Amnesty International.

The organization said Iran was the second most prolific executioner in the world last year, after China.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

The Border Guard Committee of Belarus said on August 5 that it has detained a Turkmenistan-born Swedish man and is preparing to extradite the former journalist back to Turkmenistan.

Committee member Alyaksandr Tishchenko told the Associated Press that Chary Annamuradov was detained in July as he flew into Belarus because his name was on a wanted list shared by several former Soviet republics.

Annamuradov, a former journalist who investigated drug trafficking between Europe and Afghanistan through Turkmenistan and Russia, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in Turkmenistan in 1991 on charges of drug possession.

Rights groups have said the charges against him were politically motivated.

Annamuradov was released from prison after serving several years of his sentence and fled Turkmenistan.

He lived briefly in Prague, where he worked for the Turkmen Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Annamuradov then moved to Sweden, where he was granted political asylum in 2002.

He also reportedly worked as a correspondent for Deutsche Welle under a pseudonym.

In 2015, Freedom House listed Turkmenistan among the worst offenders of jailing journalists and tightening media controls.

Based on reporting by AP, Washington Post, Fox News, and Chronicles Of Turkmenistan

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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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