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Ahmadreza Djalali with his wife, Vida Mehrannia.

The United Nations says it is "deeply alarmed" by the imminent execution in Iran of Swedish-Iranian doctor and academic Ahmedreza Djalali, and called for an immediate halt to it.

Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on May 17 that the authorities in Tehran should revoke Djallali's death sentence immediately.

Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was arrested in Iran in 2016 during an academic visit. Jalali specializes in disaster relief and has taught at European universities. Rights groups have condemned his detention.

He was accused of providing information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior nuclear scientists.

Iran has threatened to execute him by May 21.

"Use of the death penalty for espionage offenses is incompatible with international human rights law. Countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the 'most serious crimes,' which is interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing," Throssell said in the statement.

Many Western groups say the threat to execute Djalali is tied to the current trial of an Iranian in Stockholm for his alleged role in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at an Iranian prison in the 1980s.

Tehran has denied the cases, which have strained relations between Iran and Sweden, are linked.

The Knihauka bookstore in Minsk

MINSK -- Police in Minsk have detained the director of a publishing house, Andrey Yanushkevich, and his associate, Nasta Karnatskaya, after they opened a general bookstore in the Belarusian capital.

Yanushkevich and Karnatskaya were detained on May 16 soon after a visit from well-known pro-government propagandist journalists Ryhor Azaronak and Lyudmila Hladkaya.

Azaronak and Hladkaya started berating the bookstore staff for selling books in Belarusian that they said were inappropriate.

The two questioned why the store was selling a book about the Radziwill family, who influenced historic developments in what is today Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus.

They also accused the bookstore owners of selling a book with a photo of a gathering that was "reminiscent of a Nazi parade." The picture in the history book was actually of Lithuanian armed forces in Vilnius in 1939.

Hours after the visit of the two journalists, police arrived at the bookstore and conducted a search, after which, Yanushkevich and Karnatskaya were detained.

Andrey Yanushkevich publishes books on a variety of subjects, mainly in Belarusian.
Andrey Yanushkevich publishes books on a variety of subjects, mainly in Belarusian.

Yanushkevich's relatives say they do not know the grounds on which the two were detained. It also remains unclear whether Yanushkevich and Karnatskaya are facing any charges.

Yanushkevich Publishing House issues books on a variety of subjects, mainly in Belarusian.

In January 2021, the State Control Committee confiscated the publishing house's equipment and suspended its bank account for several months. Earlier this year, city authorities ordered it to vacate its offices in Minsk.

In recent months, Belarusian authorities have suspended the activities of several independent publishing houses -- Limaryus, Knihazbor, Haliyafy, and Medysont -- for the "violation of regulations on registration at the Information Ministry."

A crackdown on independent media and publishing houses has intensified in the country since mass anti-government protests followed an August 2020 presidential election that proclaimed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the winner, while the opposition and the West say the poll was rigged.

With reporting by Nasha Niva

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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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