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Baha'i representatives say those arrested did not attend the Ashura Day protests in Iran in late December that left at least eight people dead.
Baha'i representatives say that Iranian police have arrested 13 members of the that religious community for alleged involvement in antigovernment protests, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The Baha'i community representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Diane Ala'i, told RFE/RL that the government is trying to link Baha'is to the recent demonstrations.

Clashes during the December 27 protests on the Shi'ite Ashura holiday left at least eight demonstrators dead. Mass arrests are said to number well into the hundreds or higher.

Ala'i said the 13 Baha'is were arrested on January 3.

She said "they have been asked to sign a commitment letter promising not to attend protests in the future. However, they did not attend the [Ashura day] rally."

Ala'i said that although three of those arrested have been released, 10 remain incarcerated at Evin Prison in Tehran.

She said that there are a total of 48 Baha'is in Iranian jails.

The arrests come as seven Baha'i community leaders are set to stand trial on January 12. They face charges of espionage and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.

The Baha'i faith began in 19th century Iran, and currently has an estimated 5 million followers worldwide. While Baha'is regard their faith to be within the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, Iran's Shi'ite government regards Baha'ism as Islamic heresy.

There are some 300,000 Baha'is in Iran, a community that human rights groups say has faced serious repression under the Islamic republic.

Baha'i community representative Ala'i believes the latest arrests of Baha'is are designed to tarnish the reputation of their community and hurt the prospects of the Baha'i leaders at their upcoming trial.
The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia has entered Tshkinvali for the first time to discuss the detention of a South Ossetian man by Georgian police, RFE/RL's Georgian and Russian Services report.

Boris Chochiev, South Ossetia's presidential envoy on postconflict settlement, invited five EUMM representatives to Tskhinvali, where they met on January 5 with officials from Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region and Russian military authorities.

South Ossetian officials said they invited the EU monitors "as an exception" to let them examine the circumstances of the case of Gennady Pliev. They have previously refused EUMM requests to enter South Ossetian territory.

The Georgian Interior Ministry confirmed today that Pliev, a South Ossetian resident who also has a Russian passport, was arrested on charges of illegal arms possession on January 4.

South Ossetian authorities say Pliev was kidnapped by Georgian special forces in Tskhinvali, which is controlled by South Ossetian and Russian military forces.

But Georgian authorities say Pliev was arrested after he approached a Georgian police post near the city armed and in a drunken state. Pliev has reportedly been sentenced to two months of preliminary detention.

South Ossetia and Georgia's second breakaway region of Abkhazia declared their independence in August 2008.

Russia recognized their independence and Russian soldiers have been guarding the two self-proclaimed republics' border since then.

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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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