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A demonstrator in Moscow holds a portrait of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on December 31.
Will they or won't they? That's the question behind the questions as attendees gather for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland.

In a new twist on their "Ask a Leader" format, organizers of that ruthlessly exclusive forum of the megarich and überpowerful have vowed to pose three "crowdsourced questions" to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

So will they include an uncomfortable question about Kremlin whipping boy Mikhail Khodorkovsky? After all, many people regard the former Yukos oil baron and coincidentally outspoken critic of former-president-cum-prime minister Vladimir Putin as Russia's highest-profile political prisoner.

But more importantly, the WEF's "put your questions to Medvedev" page (UPDATE: now closed) shows that many of the most popular questions so far make direct reference to Khodorkovsky, whose recent conviction would keep him in prison until 2017.

Questioners are blunt in their assessments of how the rule of law is faring in Russia:

Mr. President, recently a Moscow court handed down a verdict and sentence to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev which appears to impossibly contradict the first case against them. Your own advisors, Arkady Dvorkovich and Igor Yurgens have both commented that the verdict damages Russia's investment environment, among many other critics. What do you intend to do to correct the situation?

Another goes:

During your current period of office you took several measures against what you once called “legal nihilism” yourself. Do you agree with my thought that the second harsh verdict imposed on Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, which has been criticised throughout the world, is an issue which requires your presidential consideration now? Many thanks for your attention!

Some commenters hasten to Medvedev's defense here, while his own office appears to have rushed to defend the president here and here.

It's an admittedly small sample so far. But if the voting pattern continues, perhaps some of the world's most influential people might just feel compelled to ask the Russian president about the elephant in the room.

UPDATE 2: Within hours of this post, the #1 question for Medvedev (which you can still find here) was not appearing in its queue of most popular, for some reason. Voting closed early, and it was also unclear whether Medvedev would make the trip to Davos, in light of the deadly January 24 bomb attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport.

-- Andy Heil
Zahra Bahrami
A Dutch-Iranian woman sentenced to death in Iran on multiple charges has been allowed a visit from her daughter in Tehran's Evin prison, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Zahra Bahrami was arrested after participating in Ashura (December 27, 2009) protests against the Iranian regime. She was sentenced to death last month after being found guilty of possession and distribution of drugs and other charges.

Her daughter, Banafsheh Nayebpor, said those charges include setting up an antigovernment organization; membership in an unnamed monarchist organization; and spreading antiregime propaganda.

Bahrami has denied all the charges against her and said that she confessed under severe torture.

Nayebpor told Radio Farda on January 19 she was allowed to visit her mother the previous day.

"I was allowed to meet her on [January 18] at Evin for about 20 minutes and I could tell that she was extremely scared," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said the charge of possession and distribution of drugs "was present in the case, but my mother denied this charge in court, telling the judge that she had confessed to this charge under pressure."

"It is surprising for us that besides all her political charges and despite being kept in the political prisoners' section at Evin, she has been tried and sentenced on charges of possessing drugs," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said her mother also denied belonging to a monarchist organization. She said that "Anjoman Padshahi (The Royal Association) has released a statement confirming that Zahra Bahrami had no affiliation whatsoever with the organization."

"My mother did participate in the protests and did give interviews to foreign media, but she was most definitely not a part of any monarchist organization," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said that Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, told her about two months ago she should avoid giving any interviews to the media about her mother's situation.

"Mr. Dolatabadi promised to cooperate with me and told me that he would be available for me should I feel the need to discuss the matter with him, but after that he rejected all my requests for such a meeting," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said her mother's lawyer has asked her to beg for an amnesty, but she will not do so because "we do not accept the charges. Amnesty is for those who plead guilty and accept the charges against them."

Nayebpor told Radio Farda: "We have contacted the Dutch Embassy in Iran asking for their assistance in the matter and they have assured us of all the cooperation that they can offer."

"I will do everything in my power to save my mother," she said.

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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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