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Yevgeny Voitsekhovsky (left) and Pavel Stotsko were married in Copenhagen on January 4.

Rights activists say two Russian men whose marriage in Denmark was indirectly acknowledged by Russian authorities have fled the country, citing a "real threat" to their liberty and security.

Pavel Stotsko and Yevgeny Voitsekhovsky left Russia after police declared their passports invalid and opened an administrative case against them for "intentionally defacing an official document," the Russian rights group LGBT-Network said on January 29.

It was not clear where the couple traveled to.

LGBT-Network head Igor Kochetkov said police had told Stotsko and Voitsekhovensky they would not be protected from possible attacks by homophobic vigilantes.

Stotsko and Voitsekhovsky were married in Copenhagen on January 4. When they returned to Moscow last week, they presented their passports to police for confirmation of the marriage under provisions of Russian law that regulate the recognition of foreign marriages.

Although Russia does not recognize same-sex marriages and sexual minorities regularly face discrimination and persecution there, a police official stamped the passports.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said on January 28 that the official who stamped the passports and her immediate supervisor had been dismissed, and that the investigation into the matter remained open.

LGBT-Network reported that police had blocked the entrance to Stotsko's and Voitsekhovsky's apartment on January 28.

The group said police were preventing friends from entering and the two men from leaving in an effort to recover their passports. In addition, electricity and Internet access were blocked for several hours, LGBT-Network said.

Stotsko rejected the charge that he had defaced his passport. "Our passports were stamped by officials who had every right to stamp them under federal law," he told a Moscow radio station on January 28.

The two men reportedly turned in their passports on January 29 on the advice of their lawyers and were immediately issued replacement passports.

With reporting by RIA Novosti
The image of a woman, whose name has not been made public, standing on a concrete structure on Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Street without wearing a head scarf, went viral on social media.

An Iranian woman who was arrested in Tehran last month for apparently protesting peacefully against the country's mandatory Islamic dress code has been freed, a human rights lawyer says.

"The girl of Enghelab Street has been released," lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh wrote in a post on her Facebook page on January 28.

A video showing the woman, whose name has not been made public, standing on a concrete structure on Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Street without wearing a head scarf, a punishable offense in Iran, went viral on social media after December 27.

She was silently waving a white flag in an apparent protest against the compulsory hijab, which in Iran refers to Islamic dress that covers the hair and body.

Sotoudeh said she had gone to the prosecutor's office to follow up the case and learned of her January 27 release from detention.

"I hope they don't fabricate a legal case to harm her for using her basic rights," the lawyer said. "She has not done anything wrong to deserve prosecution."

Sotoudeh wrote on her Facebook page last week that the woman is a 31-year-old mother of a toddler. The lawyer also said she was initially released after being detained on the spot but was subsequently rearrested.

Iranian authorities have made no public comment on the case.

The woman has become a symbol of defiance against the strict dress code enforced in Iran.

Thousands of social media users have asked about her whereabouts through the hashtag #Where_is_she or #Whereisthegirlfromenghelabstreet.

In a January 24 statement, Amnesty International called on Iranian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release the woman.

The London-based rights group also reiterated its calls on the authorities to “end the persecution of women who speak out against compulsory veiling and abolish this discriminatory and humiliating practice.”

Women's dress has been heavily scrutinized in the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution, when adherence to an Islamic dress code became compulsory.

The dress code dictates that women's hair and body must be covered in public.

Morality police launch regular crackdowns on those who are not fully respecting rules relating to the hijab.

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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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