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Nikol Pashinian makes the victory sign as he is taken to court on July 2, 2009.
Armenia's human rights ombudsman says jailed opposition journalist Nikol Pashinian should have his prison sentence cut by half in line with the amnesty declared by the parliament last year, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian told RFE/RL on February 23 that he hopes the court will apply the amnesty to Pashinian in the event that it upholds his guilty verdict, which is under appeal. He said "the amnesty bill does apply [to Pashinian] because it has do with [the postelection antigovernment protests of] March 1."

Harutiunian's office set up a special working group earlier this month to review Pashinian's case, the Caucasus Knot news agency reported on February 10.

The Justice Ministry has so far reserved judgment on the matter, saying that judicial proceedings in the Pashinian case have not been completed.

The amnesty bill passed by the National Assembly in June mandated the immediate release of all opposition figures who were arrested following the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan and subsequently sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The bill also said that other opposition members who had been given longer sentences can be freed after serving half their sentences.

Pashinian was given a seven-year jail term last month for his alleged role in deadly clashes between opposition protesters and security forces during the postelection protests.

The Yerevan court that handed down the controversial ruling said nothing about the amnesty's applicability to Pashinian, the outspoken editor of the opposition daily "Haykakan zhamanak." His lawyers believe he does qualify for early release under the amnesty.

However, they insist at the same time that Pashinian is innocent and should not have been imprisoned in the first place. The lawyers last week formally asked the appeals court to clear their client of organizing the 2008 "mass disturbances" that left 10 people dead and more than 200 others injured.
Iranian women read the conservative newspaper "Kayhan" in Tehran.
Official Iranian news agencies report that Payam Fazlinejad, a journalist with the influential hard-line newspaper "Kayhan," is in the hospital following an attack by unknown assailants. The details about the attack and his condition remain sketchy.

According to a report by the semiofficial Fars news agency, Fazlinejad was attacked late last night (around 9:00 p.m. Tehran time) by assailants on motorcycles. The agency says Fazlinejad was hit in the head with a "sharp object."

The official news agency IRNA has quoted a nurse at the Baghiatollah hospital where Fazlinejad is being treated as saying that he was attacked with a "cold arm."

IRNA also quote an unnamed police guard at the hospital as saying that that "the assailant or assailants" were able to escape.

The hard-line "Rajanews" has reported that Fazlinejad was attacked and badly injured on his head by "a team of terrorists that included seven members on motorbikes." The website as also posted a picture of Fazlinejad at the hospital.

Fazlinejad reportedly used to be a reformist journalist. More recently, he has been working with "Kayhan" and attacking reformists and accusing them of being foreign agents. The hard-line Fars news agency report that Fazlinejad's book "The Knights Of Cultural NATO," which according to Fars unveiled information about "those working to overthrow the Iranian establishment within the reformist camp," was a political bestseller. IRNA says the work of Fazlinejad, who is also a member of "Kayhan"'s research institute, focuses on "Western intelligence agencies and the velvet coup project" in Iran.

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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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