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A missing Pakistani activist has returned home more than one year after he was allegedly picked up by the country’s military spy agency for criticizing the army, fellow activists said on March 10.

“Samar Abbas has returned home and he is safe,” said Talib Abbas, the activist’s colleague at the Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan, the organization they worked for.

Samar Abbas went missing mysteriously in January 2017 while visiting Islamabad along with four other activists and bloggers whose writing was critical of the army’s interference in politics.

Television commentators thought to be close to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency later accused Abbas and others of being behind a Facebook page which they said had committed blasphemy.

Blasphemy is a highly charged allegation in Pakistan, where insulting the Prophet Muhammad is punishable by death and even being accused could lead to mob violence and lynchings.

The other bloggers returned home one by one nearly a month after their disappearance from different cities, and at least two of them said they were kidnapped and tortured by ISI agents. The military denied the accusations.

Several of them have since fled Pakistan, fearing for their lives.

Abbas's colleague Talib did not say exactly when he returned home, but The Express Tribune newspaper reported he was released on the outskirts of the southern city of Karachi on March 6.

The disappearance of civilians, especially those critical of the military, is common in Pakistan.

In December, social activist Raza Khan, whose organization worked for people-to-people contacts between Pakistan and rival India, went missing from the eastern city of Lahore. Khan has not been heard from since.

On the day of his disappearance, Khan had posted comments on Facebook critical of the military and its suspected link to Islamist hard-liners

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters
Golrokh Iraee (left) and Atena Daemi

Amnesty International says two Iranian human rights activists are enduring "appalling treatment" in a prison outside Tehran.

In a statement on March 9, Amnesty International said Atena Daemi and Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee were being held in "unsanitary conditions" in the Shahr-e Rey prison, on the outskirts of Tehran, and their access to the outside world was being "severely restricted."

London-based Amnesty International called for the "women's immediate and unconditional release."

"We are extremely alarmed by reports from Shahr-e Rey prison about the targeting and escalating ill treatment of Golrokh and Atena," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"They should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and now it seems the Iranian authorities are deliberately subjecting them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment because of their outspoken activism and continued human rights work, even behind bars," Luther added.

Iraee is serving a three-year sentence for writing an unpublished fictional story about the horrific practice of stoning.

Daemi is serving a sentence of seven years for distributing leaflets and writing posts on Facebook and Twitter that criticized Iran's use of the death penalty.

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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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