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Saeed Malekpour
Some 900 people have signed an open letter condemning the death sentence against an Iranian software developer accused of running adult websites, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Saeed Malekpour, a 35-year-old Iranian who has permanent residency in Canada, was arrested in 2008 after returning to Iran to visit his ailing father.

He was sentenced to death in December 2010 on a number of charges, including "designing and moderating adult-content websites" and "agitating against the regime."

The letter, published February 10 on the opposition website "Rahesabz" (rahesabz.net), was signed by hundreds of current or former students of Malekpour's alma mater, Iran's Sharif University.

Other signatories included university professors, students, and activists from inside Iran and abroad.

The letter condemns the death sentence as "illegal and inhumane" and describes the charges against Malekpour as absolutely baseless.

The letter also condemns authorities for depriving Malekpour of access to his lawyer and keeping him in solitary confinement.

Malekpour's wife, Zohreh Eftekhari, told Radio Farda on February 10 that she believes he was tortured in prison into making a false confession.

"I met Saeed about three months after he was detained in Evin prison, when he told me about his confessions that were filmed for 25 hours," Eftekhari said. "I was only able to meet him for a half hour, during which I could tell the kind of extreme trauma he underwent for providing the confessions."

The letter also demands that all charges against Malekpour be reviewed in an open court in the presence of a jury.
TOMSK, Russia -- A policeman in central Russia was sentenced to 12 years in jail today for beating a journalist to death, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Tomsk's Lenin district court also ruled that Aleksei Mitaev cannot work as a police officer for three years after he serves his jail term. The widow and father of the victim, Konstantin Popov, will each receive compensation equal to $51,000.

Popov died of a brain hemorrhage on January 20, 2010, after he was severely beaten at a local police station. The investigation and trial lasted for more than a year.

Mitaev stated that he was guilty during the investigation, but pleaded not guilty in the courtroom. Popov's relatives doubt that Mitaev was the only person involved in the beating death.

They told RFE/RL that they have sent all documents related to the case to Moscow and have demanded an independent forensic test.

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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