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Narges Mohammadi has "serious health problems," her brother says, but is not allowed out of prison to see a doctor.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest "absurd charge" brought against jailed Iranian journalist and human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, who has been imprisoned since 2015.

The Paris-based media-freedom watchdog on June 12 urged the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, to "intervene quickly and do everything possible to obtain the release of Iran's longest-held woman journalist."

Mohammadi, who was also the spokeswoman of the Center for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, is serving a 10-year prison sentence after being found guilty of anti-government propaganda and membership of a banned group opposed to the death penalty, among other charges.

In a recent open letter to the Iranian judicial authorities, her brother revealed that she was now accused of "dancing in prison during the days of mourning" commemorating the seventh-century killing of Imam Hussein, a revered figure in Shi'ite Islam.

Mehdi Mohammadi, now a refugee in Norway, also wrote that his sister had serious health problems but "was not allowed out of prison to see a doctor, who went to her cell."

"This persecution of Narges Mohammadi is evidence of judicial discrimination at the behest of the Intelligence Ministry and senior justice system officials," said Reza Moini, the head of RSF's Iran-Afghanistan desk.

Mohammadi, 47, has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including the American Physical Society's Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2018 for outstanding leadership in upholding human rights.

Iran is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Hizbullo Shovalizoda

DUSHANBE -- Tajik opposition activist Hizbullo Shovalizoda, who was extradited from Austria in March, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on extremism charges.

Shovalizoda's relatives told RFE/RL on June 12 that the activist was sentenced two days earlier after being found guilty on charges that included participating in the activities of an extremist organization and high treason.

Supreme Court officials refused to comment on Shovalizoda's trial, saying that the case was classified.

Shovalizoda's father, Abdullo Shovalizoda, told RFE/RL that no family member was invited to the trial.

"We do not even know the specific details of the charges," Abdullo Shovalizoda said.

Austrian authorities extradited 29-year-old Shovalizoda to Dushanbe in early March.

Tajik authorities said at the time that Shovalizoda was suspected of being a member of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and participating in an attempt to overthrow the government by force.

The IRPT, long an influential party with representatives in the government and parliament, was labeled a terrorist group and banned in 2015.

Dozens of IRPT officials and supporters have been prosecuted and many of them imprisoned, drawing criticism from human rights groups.

Shovalizoda arrived in Austria more than a year ago and asked for asylum, but instead was placed under arrest in January.

Tajik opposition activists in exile told RFE/RL that they had urged the Austrian authorities not to extradite Shovalizoda, as he was not a member of any political opposition group or party.

The IRPT said at the time that Shovalizoda had never been a member.

"Shovalizoda is most likely to be subjected to torture, ill-treatment, and unfair trial. He, as in previous similar situations, may be forced to testify against himself and other people under torture," the party said in a statement at the time.

Tajik authorities have been criticized for cracking down on dissent for years.

In 2014, the opposition movement Group 24 was labeled as terrorist and extremist and banned. In March 2015, the movement's founder, Umarali Quvatov, was assassinated in Istanbul, Turkey.

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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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