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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has suspended with immediate effect the Russian Union of Journalists over its action since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its role in illegally annexed Ukrainian territories. The IFJ, which represents more than 600,000 media workers across the world, said the Russian union’s membership was suspended following an investigation and then a vote by its global executive committee on February 22. The vote was held after the union refused to reconsider its decision to set up branches in four Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia, the federation said. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Javad Ruhi was arrested in December for participating in ongoing nationwide protests in Iran. (file photo)
Javad Ruhi was arrested in December for participating in ongoing nationwide protests in Iran. (file photo)

The lawyer of Iranian protester Javad Ruhi, who has been handed three death sentences after being charged with "corruption on Earth," says the cases against his client lacked evidence and witnesses.

In an interview with the Tehran-based Shargh newspaper, lawyer Majid Kaveh reasserted that his client has denied the accusations "repeatedly and clearly" in interrogations as well as in court hearings.

Ruhi, 35, was arrested in the northern Iranian city of Nowshahr on December 11 for participating in ongoing nationwide protests sparked by the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, while in police custody in September.

Kaveh says his client only danced in the city square and threw some head scarves on a fire.

The court's indictment, which was obtained by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, appears to back up the claims.

Soleiman Vatandoust, the public defender for Ruhi, said in court that a review of video from the scene only proves Ruhi's presence at the protests.

"There is no evidence regarding the accusations, including corruption on Earth," he said.

Still, Ruhi did confess to the crime. But the rights group HRANA has quoted a source close to Ruhi’s family as saying the confession was "made under duress."

Iranian authorities are accused by many former inmates of using torture and other methods to forcibly extract false confessions during the protests.

The court also referred to a video in which a person sets fire to a Koran. But the source said that "in the video, the face of the person who sets fire to the book is not clear, still the court identified the person as Javad Ruhi."

The same court has also sentenced to death two teenagers -- Mehdi Mohammadifard and Arshia Takdastan -- who were arrested during demonstrations for allegedly helping to organize and lead a September 21 rally in Nowshahr.

Authorities said Mohammadifard's and Takdastan's actions constituted "corruption on Earth," a charge often leveled in cases allegedly involving espionage or attempts to overthrow the government and which the courts have taken to using in recent months against protesters angered over student Mahsa Amini's death in custody over an alleged dress-code violation in September.

Iranians have flooded the streets across the country in protest since Amini's death, with women and even schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of defiance in what appears to be the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

A brutal government crackdown on public demonstrators and dissent has seen thousands of people arrested, including journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others voicing opposition to the government.

Some lawmakers have demanded an even harsher response, calling for heavy penalties, including death sentences, for protesters.

Four convicted protesters have already been executed while two others, Mohammad Ghobadlou and Mohammad Broghani, had their sentences upheld by the country's Supreme Court.

The regime has blamed Western governments for the unrest.

Human rights groups say the crackdown has left more than 500 people dead and hundreds more injured. Several people have been executed.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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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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