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Mohammad Sadigh Kabudvand in 2007
An imprisoned Iranian rights activist and journalist, Mohammad Sadigh Kabudvand, is the latest recipient of a Hellman/Hammett grant, awarded by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to persecuted writers.

Kabudvand, the head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, is serving a 10-year sentence in Tehran's Evin prison.

Considered to be a prisoner of conscience, Kabudvand was sentenced in May 2008 for "acting against national security by establishing the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan, widespread propaganda against the system by disseminating news, opposing Islamic penal laws by publicizing punishments such as stoning and executions, and advocating on behalf of political prisoners."

Already in poor health, Kabudvand suffered a heart attack in prison last month and is in urgent need of specialized medical care, which the authorities have refused.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, has said that Kabudvand’s experience is “harsh testimony to the plight of journalists, dissidents, and other peaceful critics in Iran today."

Each year, HRW awards Hellman/Hammett grants to writers punished by their governments for expressing opposition views, criticizing government officials or actions, or writing about topics that the government does not want reported.

The amount of Kabudvand's grant was not given.
Andrei Klimonov

Andrei Klimonov, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, was found dead in his home in the northwestern town of Aqtobe today.

His family says he died in his sleep.

Klimonov, 36, joined RFE/RL last year as a freelance correspondent for the Kazakh Service's website. He had previously worked for other independent Kazakh media organizations, including the "Aqtobe Times" newspaper in western Kazakhstan.

Klimonov had endured repeated threats and incidents of harassment in the last several years of his life because of his work as a journalist and human rights activist.

In one instance, he suffered a concussion after being beaten by five unknown attackers following anonymous threats urging him to stop writing newspaper articles.

Last year, Klimonov was severely injured when he jumped from his second-floor apartment after receiving a threatening telephone call concerning his wife and son, who had gone for a walk.

Believing they were in danger in the courtyard below, he jumped, fracturing his spine. His wife and son were not harmed in the incident.

A report is expected soon on the exact cause of Klimonov's death.

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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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