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Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus was one of those who urged the European Parliament to adopt legislation similar to the U.S. Magnistsky Act. (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- Lawyers and activists from ex-Soviet republics on February 20 urged the European Union to adopt legislation mirroring a U.S. law aimed at punishing officials for corruption and rights abuses anywhere in the world.

The speakers at a European Parliament event in Brussels included Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus, who was convicted by Azerbaijan in a case that drew international condemnation, and Kazakh lawyer Botagoz Jardemalie, who has been granted political asylum in Belgium.

They called for an EU version of the Global Magnitsky Act, a 2016 law modeled on another law passed four years earlier that specifically targeted Russians deemed by Washington to be complicit in human rights abuses.

Jardemalie, who formerly represented fugitive Kazakh tycoon Mukhtar Ablyazov and alleges her brother was illegally detained and tortured by Kazakh authorities, said that an EU version of law was "the only real mechanism that exists to stop high-profile human rights abusers."

Yunus told the event that her lawyer in Azerbaijan has lost his job, "but the people that beat us and tortured my husband have a good career."

She and her husband, Arif Yunus, were arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 8 1/2 and 7 years in prison, respectively, for alleged economic crimes. They were released on medical grounds and have lived in the Netherlands since April 2016.

The United States in December imposed financial and travel restrictions on 52 government-linked people from Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, as part of its first sanctions listing under the Global Magnitsky Act.

Ahmadreza Djalali is a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. (file photo)

The Iranian Foreign Ministry says it has summoned the Swedish ambassador to protest over the country's granting of citizenship to a Stockholm-based scientist who is being held in Tehran and faces a death sentence.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying that the Swedish envoy in Tehran had been summoned in protest on February 19, two days after Sweden confirmed it had granted citizenship to Ahmadreza Djalali.

A Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on February 17 that Stockholm has requested that Iran allow "consular access to our citizen."

"Our demand is that the death penalty is not carried out," she also said.

Qasemi said Iran considered Sweden's move "questionable and unfriendly," and added that Tehran "could not accept the foreign nationality" of the detainee.

"He is still an Iranian," he added.

Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.

Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was arrested in Iran in April 2016 and later convicted on charges of espionage.

He was accused by Iranian authorities of providing information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior Iranian nuclear scientists.

Iran's Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in December.

'Solitary Confinement, Torture'

Tehran’s prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has said Djalali confessed to meeting agents of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, to deliver information on Iran's nuclear and defense plans and personnel.

Djalali had been on a business trip to Iran when he was arrested and sent to Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

Amnesty International says Djalali was held in solitary confinement for three months and tortured after his arrest.

The London-based rights groups also said Djalali wrote a letter from inside prison in August stating that he was being held because he refused to spy for Iran.

Seventy-five Nobel prize laureates in 2016 petitioned Iranian authorities to release Djalali so that he could "continue his scholarly work for the benefit of mankind.”

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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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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