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Nasrin Sotoudeh

The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) says that at least three political activists in Tehran's Evin prison have joined imprisoned human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike demanding freedom for all political prisoners.

Sotoudeh's hunger strike was launched after Iranian judicial officials announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has killed 1,135 people in Iran.

Iranian officials have not provided official lists of who has been released or indicated why some remain behind bars while others have been granted temporary release.

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, told CHRI on March 17 that other prisoners of conscience, including Rezvaneh Khanbeigi, Hossein Sarlak, and Morteza Nazari, were also refusing food in solidarity with Sotoudeh.

Iran has been the hardest-hit country by the virus in the Middle East, with a total of 17,361 confirmed cases, roughly 90 percent of the region's total.

Sotoudeh, the co-winner of the European Parliament's 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was arrested at her home in Tehran in June 2018. She was sentenced to a total of 38 1/2 years in prison and 148 lashes over her defense of political prisoners, including women protesting the compulsory hijab law.

Khandan told CHRI that his wife was aware of the dangers of going on a hunger strike amid the deadly outbreak, given chronic shortages of medicines and sanitary supplies in Iranian prisons.

She started the hunger strike only as a "last resort," he added.

"Nasrin says, 'If we're going to die, let us be by our families' sides,'" Khandan told CHRI.

Gulnara Karimova (file photo)

Gulnara Karimova, the imprisoned elder daughter of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov, has received an additional 13 years and four months in prison in the latest court ruling against her and her former associates.

Uzbekistan's Supreme Court said on March 18 that Karimova was found guilty of extortion, money laundering, misappropriating the property of others, and financial and other crimes, and sentenced the same day along with five other defendants.

Karimova, who has been jailed in Tashkent since March 2019, went on trial for the charges on January 8.

Last month she sent a letter to President Shavkat Mirziyoev offering to return $686 million to the country's treasury in exchange for the dismissal of the court case.

The Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office said in August that the new case against Karimova was linked to allegations that she illegally bought state-owned shares of two cement plants that she later sold to foreign businessmen.

The 47-year-old Karimova, once seen as a possible successor to her father, has been also tied to money-laundering investigations in Sweden and Switzerland.

She was placed under house arrest in Tashkent in 2014 when her father was still alive and ran the country. Karimov died in 2016 and Mirziyoev became his successor soon afterward.

In December 2017, Karimova was sentenced to a 10-year prison term but several months later the sentence was reclassified to house arrest and shortened to five years.

In March 2019, she was placed in jail for allegedly violating the terms of her house arrest.

Also in March 2019, the U.S. Justice Department named Karimova as part of a major international bribery scheme, charging her with conspiracy to violate U.S. foreign corruption laws.

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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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