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Two of the young Iranian political activist detained on December 19: Hadi Heydari (left) and Fatemeh Arabsorkhi
Four young Iranian reformists have been taken into custody after being summoned to the prosecutor's office at Tehran's Evin prison, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The four activists are Hadi Heydari, a cartoonist for Iranian reformist papers; Mohammad Shafiei and Ali Reza Taheri, members of the youth branch of the Islamic Iran Participation Front; and Fatemeh Arabsorkhi, daughter of jailed leading reformist Feizollah Arabsorkhi.

The reason for their detention on December 20 has not yet been made public.

Fatemeh Arabsorkhi’s sister, Sajedeh, told Radio Farda that Fatemeh has said that she is being held in solitary confinement in Evin prison. Sajedeh said Fatemeh suffers from heart disease and has been hospitalized several times in recent months. She suggested that the security forces may have arrested Fatemeh in order to compound the pressure on their father.

Feizollah Arabsorkhi is a senior member of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin organization who was arrested shortly after the disputed June 2009 presidential election and is currently serving a six-year jail term in Evin prison.

In August 2010, Feizollah Arabsorkhi, together with six other reformist figures, filed a complaint against the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for their interference in the election.

Listen to the story in Persian here.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Dozens of prominent writers, actors, artists, and human rights activists in St. Petersburg sent an open letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today urging him to protect former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil giant, and his former associate, Platon Lebedev, went on trial on March 3, 2009, on charges of embezzling millions of tons of oil and money laundering.

The verdict was expected this week but was postponed at the last moment until December 27.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to embezzlement. They are currently in jail on fraud and tax-evasion charges that critics say were fabricated to punish Khodorkovsky for financing opposition parties.

The authors of the letter say the decision to postpone the reading of the verdict "proves that the verdict was not decided in the courtroom."

Prominent St. Petersburg human rights defenders Nina Katerli, Yevgeny Ikhlov, and Boris Vishnevsky are among the signatories.

Prominent writer Boris Strugatsky, who also signed the letter, told RFE/RL the decision to start reading the verdict on December 27 is an attempt by the authorities to deflect international interest in the case.

Strugatsky said all international journalists covering the trial will most likely go home to celebrate the holidays, and that that is exactly what the authorities want.

He added that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's public statement on December 16 constituted "unacceptable pressure upon the court."

During a live TV question-and-answer session with the public, Putin called Khodorkovsky a thief and said that like any thief, Khodorkovsky should be in jail.

Read in Russian 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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