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The Serbian Defense Ministry said that President Aleksandar Vucic had sent the troops to "secure" three migrant camps near the Croatian border. (file photo)

Serbia has deployed troops near a town not far from the border with Croatia where hundreds of migrants are located, hoping to reach the European Union.

In a statement issued on May 16, the Serbian Defense Ministry said that President Aleksandar Vucic sent the troops to "secure" three migrant camps near the western town of Sid that are housing some 1,500 people, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Vucic said he ordered the deployment to protect the local population from alleged harassment and robberies committed by the migrants.

He told TV Prva that, after a state of emergency imposed to fight the coronavirus spread in Serbia was lifted earlier this month, the migrants started venturing outside the camps, committing "petty crimes and illegal entries into houses."

"Because of that people are feeling unsafe," Vucic said.

There are an estimated 4,000 migrants stranded in Serbia, one of the main transit routes through the Balkans for people fleeing wars and poverty.

Based on reporting by AP
Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah (file photo)

An Iranian court has sentenced a French-Iranian academic to six years in prison on security charges, her lawyer said.

The lawyer for Fariba Adelkhah said on May 16 that his client was sentenced to five years for "colluding to commit acts against national security" and one year for "propaganda against the system."

Her lawyer, Said Dehghan, said they would appeal the ruling.

France condemned the sentencing and demanded Adelkhah's immediate release.

"This sentencing is not based on any serious element or fact and is thus a political decision," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on May 16. "We are urging Iranian authorities to immediately release Mrs Adelkhah."

Adelkhah and her French colleague and partner, Roland Marchal, were arrested together in June 2019.

Marchal, who was accused of "colluding to commit acts against national security," was allowed to return home to France in March after being released in a prisoner swap between Paris and Tehran.

In January, Iran dropped spying charges against 61-year-old Adelkhah but she remained in Tehran’s Evin prison on other security-related charges.

Adelkhah is a research director at Sciences Po university in Paris and an expert on Iran and Shi'ite Islam.

Iran, which does not recognize dual citizenship, had repeatedly rejected calls from Paris to release Adelkhah.

Adelkhah has been weakened by a 49-day hunger strike between late December and February, her lawyer said.

The country has arrested dozens of dual nationals in recent years on alleged espionage charges.

Iranian authorities have not provided any solid evidence to back their claims.

Marchal is not the only foreign national to have been freed by Iran in a prisoner swap in recent months.

In February, Iran released an unidentified German national in exchange for Iranian Ahmad Khalili, who was in custody for circumventing U.S. sanctions.

In December, Tehran freed U.S. academic Xiyue Wang in exchange for scientist Massud Soleimani.

Iran has said it is open to further prisoner swaps.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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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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