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Saeed Malekpour (file photo)
Iranian media have confirmed that an Iranian man with Canadian residency has had a death sentence against him reinstated by an Iranian high court on charges that he operated a pornographic website.

Fars News Agency said the death sentence for Saeed Malekpour was upheld by the Supreme Court, confirming reports earlier this month.

Judges had annulled the death sentence in June, which was handed down for alleged antigovernment activities and developing adult Internet content.

No explanation has been given as to why the court reversed itself.

Malekpour's supporters say he developed a program that allows photographs to be posted to the Internet that was used without his knowledge for the creation of pornographic websites.

A resident of Canada since 2004, Malekpour was arrested in Iran in 2008 while visiting his dying father.

Reporters Without Borders expressed "shock" over the original verdict.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on January 17 condemned the Iranian court's reported decision to reinstate the sentence.

Family members have suggested the judiciary was under pressure from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to order Malekpour's execution.

Malekpour's sister, Maryam, argued that her brother's computer code could have been used by anyone and was used by adult content publishers without his knowledge.

She has also questioned televised confessions her brother made in 2010 in which he admitted to all of the charges against him, saying he was coerced. Maryam Malekpour says the prosecution's case relied almost solely on those confessions.

A number of Iranians have emerged from prison saying they were tortured into such confessions, which are frequently then broadcast on state television.

Amnesty International says Iranian executions have been on the rise in recent years, with at least 600 people put to death in the 11 months through November.

compiled from agency and RFE/RL reports
Participants added white details to their cars to press home hopes for "pure" elections in Russia during the "White Ring" event on a main avenue in downtown Moscow on January 29.
Supporters of planned "For Fair Elections" demonstrations in Russia are claiming success in a run-up event in the capital to drum up support for the February 4 showdown between critics of last month's flawed vote and Russia's political leadership.

Social networks and a new civic group called the League of Voters had encouraged motorists and other critics of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his effort to retake the presidency to display a white ribbon or other symbol and travel Moscow's Garden Ring, a circular avenue around downtown.

Follow RFE/RL Russian Service's live reporting of the event, which kicked off at 2:00 p.m. local time

Organizers of the "carousel-style" protest -- in which individuals avoid massing in one place at one time to avoid assembly bans -- pronounced victory in their effort to attract around 2,000 vehicles, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported.

They described the event as having "locked the ring."

Backers claimed that some 3,000 cars joined the protest, while police said they numbered more like 300.

Kremlin gadfly and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny and opposition leader and former Nizhny Novgorod Governor Boris Nemtsov participated in the action.

An RFE/RL correspondent said pedestrians and passing cars displayed white ribbons and balloons and waved scarves and other objects to symbolize the goal of "pure" elections.

Watch a video of motorists adding white objects to their vehicles to show support for democratic elections (in Russian)

The December 4 elections for a new State Duma sparked street demonstrations that have been unprecedented since Putin assumed the presidency in late 1999.

Forced under the Russian Constitution to step down in 2008 after two consecutive terms, Putin remained the country's most powerful politician as prime minister and is the favorite to win the March presidential vote.

Critics at home and abroad say his carefully orchestrated power swap with current president and Putin protege Dmitry Medvedev, who isn't seeking a second term, could spell political and economic stagnation.

The creation of the League of Voters by leading journalists, activists, and other personalities angry at perceived abuses was announced earlier this month.

written by Andy Heil based on RFE/RL Russian Service reporting

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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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