TURKMENISTAN: Activist forced to leave the country

Human Rights Watch reported that a biologist and environmental activist who had been imprisoned by authorities in Turkmenistan for "causing bodily harm" has been released, apparently on the proviso that he leave the country.

Despite Zatoka being the apparent victim, witnesses reported that he was promptly arrested by police who arrived at the scene. He was put on trial three days later on what Human Rights Watch believes to be a politically motivated charge resulting from his activism in the country.

His sentence has now been commuted to a fine of $350. Following his release, however, Zatoka claims he was told he must leave the country and the apartment where he has lived for 27 years. Along with Farid Tukhbatullin, Zatoka was co-founder of the Dashoguz Ecological Club which was closed following Tukhbatullin's subsequent arrest. He left the country after his release in 2003 and now heads the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.

IRAN: Former chancellor of Tehran University still held

Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Dr Mohammad Maleki, former chancellor of Tehran University, who continues to be held by Iranian authorities after peacefully criticising the result of the presidential election in June.

Maleki is believed to be seriously ill in Evin prison with prostate cancer and requires urgent medical attention. He has been in the prison since August, having had his initial two-month temporary detention order extended in October without any explanation from authorities about the charges against him.

His wife was apparently told at the time of his arrest that he was being detained for provoking unrest and for having links to the banned opposition group The People's Mohahedin Organisation of Iran. Although critical of the election process, Maleki did not publicly comment on any of the running candidates. He has been arrested and detained by Iranian authorities on several previous occasions.

TUNISIA: Student activist at risk of torture

A Tunisian student held by authorities since 22 October is at risk of torture, according to Amnesty International. Mohammed Soudani, an active member of the General Union of Tunisian Students, was arrested after meeting with two French radio journalists who were covering the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections that took place in the country on 25 October.

There has since been little information regarding his whereabouts and condition, although he is believed to be held at the State Security Department of the Ministry of the Interior in Tunis, where torture and mistreatment are alleged to be commonplace.

Soudani had phoned his lawyer and friends on the evening of his arrest to say a number of Tunisian security officers were outside the hotel where he had met the journalists. He told them if they did not hear from him after 10pm then it was likely that he had been arrested. His phone has been switched off since.

* Daniel Sawney and Jonathan Travis work for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR) www.nearinternational.org