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Zahra Bahrami
A Dutch-Iranian woman sentenced to death in Iran on multiple charges has been allowed a visit from her daughter in Tehran's Evin prison, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Zahra Bahrami was arrested after participating in Ashura (December 27, 2009) protests against the Iranian regime. She was sentenced to death last month after being found guilty of possession and distribution of drugs and other charges.

Her daughter, Banafsheh Nayebpor, said those charges include setting up an antigovernment organization; membership in an unnamed monarchist organization; and spreading antiregime propaganda.

Bahrami has denied all the charges against her and said that she confessed under severe torture.

Nayebpor told Radio Farda on January 19 she was allowed to visit her mother the previous day.

"I was allowed to meet her on [January 18] at Evin for about 20 minutes and I could tell that she was extremely scared," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said the charge of possession and distribution of drugs "was present in the case, but my mother denied this charge in court, telling the judge that she had confessed to this charge under pressure."

"It is surprising for us that besides all her political charges and despite being kept in the political prisoners' section at Evin, she has been tried and sentenced on charges of possessing drugs," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said her mother also denied belonging to a monarchist organization. She said that "Anjoman Padshahi (The Royal Association) has released a statement confirming that Zahra Bahrami had no affiliation whatsoever with the organization."

"My mother did participate in the protests and did give interviews to foreign media, but she was most definitely not a part of any monarchist organization," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said that Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, told her about two months ago she should avoid giving any interviews to the media about her mother's situation.

"Mr. Dolatabadi promised to cooperate with me and told me that he would be available for me should I feel the need to discuss the matter with him, but after that he rejected all my requests for such a meeting," Nayebpor said.

Nayebpor said her mother's lawyer has asked her to beg for an amnesty, but she will not do so because "we do not accept the charges. Amnesty is for those who plead guilty and accept the charges against them."

Nayebpor told Radio Farda: "We have contacted the Dutch Embassy in Iran asking for their assistance in the matter and they have assured us of all the cooperation that they can offer."

"I will do everything in my power to save my mother," she said.
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WATCH: An estimated 7,000 supporters turned up in the Armenian capital on January 19, one day before TV station ALM's forced closure, to hear Tigran Karapetian issue his list of demands of the government.

By Emil Danielyan and Hovannes Shoghikian

The owner of a TV station facing closure has threatened to campaign for the ouster of Armenia's political leadership if it fails to meet his far-reaching political and economic demands.

At his second major demonstration in as many weeks, Tigran Karapetian was rallying supporters in Yerevan one day before his ALM channel was due to end broadcasts in line with a controversial decision made by the National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAH) last month.

Karapetian, who leads a small political party, made little direct mention of ALM's dilemma as he addressed the crowd of several thousand, mostly middle-aged and elderly people. Instead, he issued a long list of mainly socioeconomic demands to Armenian authorities.

Those include the release of all "political prisoners," the doubling of the national minimum wage, pensions and poverty benefits, sharp tax cuts, and a 7 percent cap on commercial bank lending rates. Karapetian also insisted that Armenian small businesses should pay a single fixed tax of no more than 10,000 drams ($27) a month.

"If there is no agreement with us [over these demands,] if they don't show that they are taking steps by February 28, we will gather here on February 28 and will say 'no' to these authorities in pre-term elections," he declared.

It was unclear whether the selection of that cutoff date was in any way connected with the third anniversary on March 1 of deadly postelection violence in Yerevan. Armenia's largest opposition force led by Levon Ter-Petrosian will likely mark it with a rally in the same location in central Yerevan.

"I am in a resolute mood because I have your go-ahead," the ALM chief told the crowd.

In his strongest attack yet on the government, Karapetian accused unnamed individuals of "making money day and night at the expense of working people."

"Their activities cannot continue indefinitely," he said. "They will run away from this country."

Despite his political ambitions -- he told RFE/RL's Armenian Service after his speech that "I'm going for presidential elections and will become president of the republic," prompting shouts of encouragement from ALM supporters within earshot -- Karapetian had previously refrained from threatening or calling for a change in national leadership. He had also been careful not to attack personally Armenia's current or previous presidents in his daily talk shows and televised monologues aired by ALM on virtually a daily basis.

Karapetian also denied rumors that he has been offered a 50 percent stake in Yerevan TV, a small pro-government broadcaster that defeated ALM in a controversial tender for a new broadcast license that was administered by the radio and TV commission. "God forbid," he said, crossing himself. "Believe me, I'm not going to take anything from the authorities."

This and other tenders held late last year stemmed from Armenia's ongoing transition to mandatory broadcasting.

Armenian media associations and opposition groups say that the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian is using the nationwide transformation to digital broadcasting to maintain or tighten its grip on political news coverage. The broadcast commission denies any such motives.

Also in December, the regulatory body refused to grant a digital frequency to A1+, the country's leading independent TV station that was forced off the air in 2002. It also refused to renew the license of GALA, another independent broadcaster based in Gyumri, which expires in 2015.

Karapetian set up ALM about a decade ago, after making a fortune in Russia. His populist appeal and folksy demeanor quickly earned the TV channel, accessible to the vast majority of Armenians, a large viewership among mostly working-class people and rural residents.

Thousands of supporters turned out for Karapetian's last protest, on January 7, to express disagreement with the decision to take ALM off the air.

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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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