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A jailed Iranian student has written an open letter to the judiciary demanding action to improve conditions in the country's prisons, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Zia Nabavi, a spokesman for the Council to Defend the Right to Education, was arrested during the unrest following the June 2009 presidential election and jailed on charges that included "assembly with intent to conspire against national security" and cooperation with the banned exile group, the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MKO).

He is serving a 10-year jail sentence in Karun prison in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

His letter to Mohammad Javad Ardshir Larijani, the head of the judiciary's human rights department, was published on the Daneshjoonews and Kalame websites on May 4.

Peyman Roshanzamir, a former cell mate of Nabavi in Karun, in an interview with Radio Farda on May 4 described the prison as overcrowded and dirty.

"I was surprised to see that over 1,500 prisoners had been sleeping in the yard for a year, regardless of the severe weather conditions," he said.

He added that they are forced to find covered spots in the yard should it rain at night.

Roshanzamir also said that when it rained, the yard would become a massive puddle of rainwater contaminated with sewage.

"After clearing up the mess within hours, the inmates would spread their blankets on the same ground to sleep once more," he said.

Nabavi in his letter also complained that political prisoners were often held in the same block as drugs offenders.
Russian human rights activist Viktoria Gromova
MINSK -- Belarusian authorities have given two visiting Russian human rights activists 24 hours to leave the country, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Viktoria Gromova told RFE/RL that she and Aleksandr Mnatsakanyan were officially informed by Minsk's Pershamay district court on May 5 that they are on a list of people who are personae non gratae in Belarus.

She said they were shown documents stating that Gromova will not be eligible to enter Belarus until March 31, 2012. Mnatsakanyan will be barred until May 31, 2013.

Gromova and Mnatsakanyan along with three other Russian citizens -- Irina Paikachyova, Yury Dzhibladze, and Lyubov Zakharova -- and Ukrainian Volodymyr Chemerys, were detained on May 4 near the Minsk-based "Vyasna" (Spring) human rights center.

They were scheduled to present a report on the demonstration in Minsk on December 19 to protest the announcement that incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenko had been reelected.

No explanation was given for their detention. All six were subsequently released.

Read more in Belarusian here

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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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