RUSSIA: Court rejects appeal by imprisoned scientist

A court in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk has rejected an appeal for the release of academic Igor Sutyagin, who is serving a 15-year sentence for espionage. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Sutyagin, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Canada Institute, was sentenced in 2004 for allegedly passing classified information about Russia's nuclear weapons to a London-based firm.

The academic denies the charges and in 2007 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe demanded his immediate release. Amnesty International has also named Sutyagin a prisoner of conscience. According to RFE/RL, the court rejected the recent appeal for his release on the grounds that he had broken prison rules.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

IRAN: Student detained and denied access to lawyer

Majid Tavakoli, a student at Amir Kabir University, continues to be deprived of access to his lawyers and visits from his family, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has said. Three months ago, Tavakoli was sentenced to eight years and six months' imprisonment and a five year ban on travelling abroad. He was transferred to Evin prison on 20 April 2010 after serving 125 days in solitary confinement.

Tavakoli, known for his dedication to human rights, was violently arrested on 7 December after giving a speech to students at his university to commemorate Students' Day. As he tried to leave the university campus, he was beaten by security agents and arrested.

He had been previously arrested and imprisoned twice, once in 2008 during the fabrication of student publications and again in February 2009 during his participation in a memorial service for Mehdi Bazrgan, a prominent Iranian scholar.

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

UK: Cambridge changes rules to make sackings easier

Changes to the Cambridge University statute may make it easier to sack difficult dons, the Guardian says. The university council, headed by the vice-chancellor, is proposing to strip Regent House (the dons' parliament which comprises half the university's staff) of its right to approve the names of staff pinpointed for redundancy.

The new proposals could mean that academics that face a redundancy hearing will face equal treatment to librarians, lab technicians and other non-academic staff, the Guardian says. Until now, academics have had the right to have their cases heard by the vice-chancellor and a committee of seven, which acts as a university court of appeal.


IRAQ: Bombs target Christian students in Iraq

Two bombs exploded on 2 May near buses carrying Christian students in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing at least one bystander and injuring around 100 others, the Associated Press has reported. Iraq's Christian minority has often been targeted by Sunni Muslim insurgents who regard them as supporters of the Shiite-led government.

The attack began with a roadside bomb that appeared to target buses carrying students to Mosul University. Moments later, a car bomb exploded nearby. According to the Associated Press, the US-based National Council of Churches recently sent a letter to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on her to urge Iraqi officials to do more to protect Iraq's Christian community.

Associated Press

PAKISTAN: University mourns professor's death

Staff from Balochistan University in Pakistan announced three days of mourning for a woman professor who was recently shot dead, BBC News understands. Nazima Talib, who taught at Balochistan University for 20 years, was shot dead as she travelled through the city of Quetta.

Armed nationalists in Balochistan are reportedly pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing. BBC News said rebels normally targeted Punjabi military and civilian officials but people from Sindh province such as Talib have rarely been attacked.

BBC News

IRAN: Iranian students protest US threats

Students and academics staged a demonstration in front of the UN building in Tehran to protest against the US nuclear threat against Iran.

A large crowd gathered in front of the building to show their objection to President Barack Obama's recent threatening comments about a nuclear strike on Iran. The students chanted slogans in support of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and President Ahmadinejad, Press TV reported.

Last month, Obama released a new US Nuclear Posture Review that among other things restricted the use of nuclear arms against other countries. But Obama told The New York Times a loophole in the review could potentially apply to countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Press TV

* Jonathan Travis works for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR)