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Thursday 6 January 2022

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Iranian sociologist Saeed Madani (file photo)

Iranian authorities have prevented a prominent Iranian sociologist from leaving the country to begin a one-year research program at Yale University.

Saeed Madani, a scholar and former political prisoner, said earlier this week that he had been prevented from boarding a flight out of Tehran by the intelligence branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which confiscated his passport.

In a January 4 letter to Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, Madani said he was interrogated by the Intelligence Ministry before his planned departure in early December and told that he was free to travel.

Iranian authorities have in past years prevented a number of activists, journalists, and scholars from leaving the country by confiscating their passports.

Madani has been arrested and sentenced to prison several times in the past over his membership in a banned nationalist-religious opposition group.

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (file photo)

A court in Ukraine has frozen property owned by former President Petro Poroshenko as part of a formal investigation into alleged high treason by the former head of state, which he denies.

"The court decided to seize the suspect's property, which belongs to him on the right of ownership," the Prosecutor General's office said in a statement on January 6.

The State Investigation Bureau said last month that Poroshenko had been placed under formal investigation for high treason, accusing him of "facilitating the activities" of separatists fighting government forces in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014.

During his presidency, Poroshenko is suspected of helping the separatists to sell some 1.5 billion hryvnyas ($54 million) worth of coal to Kyiv in 2014 and 2015, it said in a statement.

Poroshenko has denied the allegations while accusing Ukrainian authorities of crossing "a red line" by bringing treason charges against a former head of state.

Last month, prosecutors asked a Ukrainian court to arrest Poroshenko with the possibility of bail set at 1 billion hryvnia ($37 million).

Poroshenko has been outside Ukraine since late December and has yet to comment on the ruling.

The politician, who is now a lawmaker and the leader of the opposition European Solidarity party, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

He has said that he plans to come back to Ukraine on January 17.

Poroshenko's allies said the seizure of assets was a result of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's personal vendetta. Zelenskiy succeeded Poroshenko as president after defeating him in a 2019 election.

"A weak president ... uses manual prosecution, manual investigation, and manual justice to punish opponents," Volodymyr Ariev, a lawmaker from Poroshenko's political party said after the court's decision.

"This unlawful decision aggravates the political crisis in the country," Iryna Gerashchenko, another lawmaker from his party wrote on Facebook.

Ahead of the court's decision on January 6, Poroshenko wrote on Facebook that he "will return to Kyiv" to appear in front of a judge "not to defend myself against Zelenskiy, but to defend Ukraine from incompetent leadership."

Zelenskiy has not commented on the court's decisions but previously denied wanting to wield influence over state prosecutors or the judiciary.

With reporting by Reuters

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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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