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Kamiar and Arash Alaei at an RFE/RL studio
Two doctors known for their AIDS-prevention work have been found guilty of being involved in organizing a plot to overthrow the Iranian government.

Masud Shafie, a lawyer for the two brothers, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Arash Alaei was sentenced to six years and his brother Kamiar Alaei to three years in prison.

Kamiar and Arash Alaei have been in custody since June, and the European Union has called for their release.

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Human Rights, and Physicians for Human Rights have condemned the arrests and legal processes as unfair and politically motivated.

The brothers are known as Iran's leading specialists in HIV/AIDS.

Reports had already emerged suggesting the Alaei brothers were convicted in a secret trial in early January.
Ermek Boltay
RFE/RL President Jeffery Gedmin is calling on the Kazakh government to investigate an attack against the editor of the website of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

Ermek Boltay was attacked by a group of unknown assailants outside his home on January 18 in Almaty. He was hit with a glass bottle and kicked until he lost consciousness.

Neither his wallet nor his documents were taken by the attackers.

"As a talented, up-and-coming independent journalist, Ermek represents the future in Kazakhstan," Gedmin said. "An attack on Ermek for doing his job would be not only an assault on RFE/RL, it would be an attack on press freedom and progress in Kazakhstan."

Boltay had recently reported on social unrest in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city.

In a statement, Gedmin noted that Kazakhstan will assume the leadership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Europe's premiere human-rights watchdog, in 2010.

The attack is the second on an independent journalist in Kazakhstan in the past month.

Local police say they have launched an investigation into the case.

Access to RFE/RL's English and Kazakh-language websites were blocked for seven weeks in April 2008 by Kaztelecom, the government-controlled Internet monopoly.

The websites of several political opposition movements remain blocked.

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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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