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Iranian media say a 34-year-old man had a hand chopped off as punishment for stealing livestock in the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan.

The local, state-sponsored newspaper Khorasan reported that the amputation took place on January 17 in the central prison in the provincial capital, Mashhad.

The man, referred to as A. Kh., was transferred to a medical center after the punishment was carried out, the paper said.

He was sentenced to hand amputation six years ago, and the sentence was later upheld by an appeals court.

In a statement, Amnesty International said that such an "unspeakably cruel" punishment showed the Iranian authorities' "complete disregard for human dignity."

"There is no place for such brutality in a robust criminal justice system," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at the London-based rights group.

"Amputation is torture plain and simple, and administering torture is a crime under international law," Mughrabi added.

The Iranian authorities have defended amputation as the best way to deter theft.

In 2017, dozens of amputation sentences were imposed in Iran and subsequently upheld by the country's Supreme Court, according to Amnesty International.

Judicial authorities also continued to carry out punishments such as flogging and blinding.

With reporting by dpa
Navalny supporter Semyon Kochkin said on January 18 that police officers had confiscated leaflets from him. (file photo)

Supporters of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny say their members have been harassed by police with some offices searched and leaflets calling for a boycott of Russia's upcoming election seized.

The coordinator of Navalny’s office in the Volga regional city of Cheboksary, Semyon Kochkin, said on Twitter on January 18 that police officers had confiscated leaflets from him.

The chief of Navalny’s local office in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Ksenia Pakhomova, wrote on Twitter that a teenage Navalny supporter, Vasily Kaverin, had been detained by police for several hours after distributing election boycott leaflets.

Navalny himself said that police had searched his office in St. Petersburg.

A video placed on Navalny's official Twitter account showed several officers forcing people out of the premises saying that they received information that illegal activities or an illegal document were inside the office.

Navalny, an anticorruption crusader and vocal opponent of President Vladimir Putin, called for the boycott of the March 18 vote after election authorities in December barred him from the ballot due to a criminal conviction he says was fabricated.

His supporters plan to organize mass rallies across Russia on January 28 to protest against the decision.

Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999, is seeking a fourth six-year term in the upcoming election.

Kremlin critics contend that most of the other candidates are being used as window-dressing in a vote Putin is certain to win in Russia's tightly controlled political environment.

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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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