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Nasrin Sotoudeh has been held in Evin prison since early September.
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has issued a fresh appeal for Tehran to release jailed human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

Ebadi's call came in a joint appeal titled "A Race Against Death For Nasrin Sotoudeh" issued along with Jean-Francois Juilliard, the head of the media freedom group Reporters Without Borders, and Francois Cantier, head of the Lawyers Without Borders group.

Sotoudeh has been held at Tehran's Evin prison since early September on charges including "acting against national security" and cooperation with Ebadi's Defenders for Human Rights Center.

"Her struggle is our struggle," the appeal says. "The Iranian regime is trying to crush a voice that it fears. Its attempt to reduce Nasrin Sotoudeh to silence obliges us to take up the challenge of a race against death."

Today's appeal came amid reports that Sotoudeh has been transferred to the prison hospital due to her physical condition, which has been weakened by a third hunger strike.

Sotoudeh's husband, Reza Khandan, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda today he has not received any formal notification of her condition.

Khandan said that during his most recent telephone conversation with his wife, he could tell that she was extremely unwell.

"Her body could simply not have taken it after nine days of a dry hunger strike," he said.

Khandan says that he has not seen his wife since the last court session on November 28.

"We were able to have a cabin meeting [talking through a screen] with her before that on alternate Thursdays, but due to the religious holidays, we haven't been able to meet with her," he said.

Khandan says their two children -- Nima, a boy of 3, and Mehrave, a 12-year-old girl -- are not permitted a cabin meeting with their mother because of the possible psychological trauma.

Sotoudeh is to appear in court on December 27 on a new charge of violating Islamic standards of conduct by not wearing the hijab.
Ernest Vardanean (file photo)
CHISINAU -- A court in the breakaway Transdniester region has sentenced a Moldovan journalist to 15 years in prison after finding him guilty of spying for Chisinau, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

In a case that sparked international concern, Ernest Vardanean, 30, was arrested in April in Tiraspol on suspicion of spying for Moldova's secret services.

He was charged with high treason, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison in the self-styled Transdniester republic.

The Tiraspol court handed down the sentence on December 16.

Alexandru Postica is Vardanean's family lawyer in Chisinau, but hasn't been allowed by the Transdniestrian authorities to represent the journalist in court.

He told RFE/RL today that the sentence could be appealed only by the lawyer assigned to Vardanean by Tiraspol.

But Postica said he was unsure if that lawyer would file an appeal.

"I don't think the sentence against him can be changed because Vardanean's case is political and the so-called minister of justice in Tiraspol has indicated very clearly that he wants Vardanean to be sentenced," Postica said.

Vardanean's wife Irina complained in interviews with RFE/RL during the journalist's eight-month ordeal that the Tiraspol lawyer was doing little to defend her husband and was constantly avoiding her outside the court, saying he was too busy to talk to her.

Reacting to the verdict, Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Victor Osipov told RFE/RL that Vardanean's case could be defined as an attempt by Transdniester's politicians to undermine the central Moldovan government's efforts to build trust and confidence between Chisinau and Tiraspol.

According to Osipov, Vardanean's sentencing will not prevent further such efforts by Chisinau.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) mission in Chisinau said its representatives were denied access when they tried to enter the courtroom on the opening day of Vardanean's trial in Tiraspol on November 3.

While in prison, Vardanean was shown on Transdniester television confessing to being a Moldovan spy -- a confession family and friends said was made under pressure.

Transdniester, which broke away from Moldova in the early 1990s, is not recognized internationally but has de facto independence.

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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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