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Investigative Reporting Takes RFE/RL to Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia and Russia

RFElogo250Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has been busy investigating several stories involving political scheming from Iraq to Russia.

The Swedish-based telecommunications giant TeliaSonera has been under investigation for allegedly paying massive bribes to Uzbek presidential daughter Gulnara Karimova. Correspondents Daisy Sindelar and Farruh Yusupov report that fresh documents appear to bolster suspicions of a direct link between TeliaSonera and Karimova.

This week Iran’s electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council, approved the candidacies of just eight of the nearly 700 people who applied to run in next month’s presidential election. Those disqualified included two prominent nominees– former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a close ally of current President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. So what recourse, if any, do disqualified candidates have to overturn the decision? Correspondents Golnaz Esfandiari, Mardo Soghom and Frud Bezhan have a series of reports. (Also from Bezhan: “A Guide To Iran’s Presidential Elections“)

The arrest of Vano Merabishvili, Mikheil Saakashvili’s most powerful ally, appears to tighten the noose around the weakened Georgian president, who has seen his support base crumble since Bidzina Ivanishvili’s rise to power last October. But observers in Georgia say the arrest may also be a response to a vicious religious crackdown against gay-rights groups – and a sign that Ivanishvili’s true rival is no longer Saakashvili, but the church. Correspondents Nino Kharadze, Nona Mchedlishvili, and Daisy Sindelar report.

Correspondents Samira Ali Mandee and Charles Recknagel report on Iraqi volunteers — both Sunni and Shi’a — who are slipping into Syria where they fight on opposite sides, raising fears the war will spill back to Iraq.

Correspondent Tom Balmforth reports from Moscow where the director of the independent Levada Center says the polling organization could be forced to close down after Russian prosecutors warned that it must register as a “foreign agent.”

And as if Russian authorities weren’t busy enough with their crackdown on civil society, the Eurovision Song Contest is now in the crosshairs. Correspondent Deana Kjuka reports.