Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about the state of health of jailed 75-year-old journalist Siamak Pourzand, it deplored the 18-month prison sentence just passed on freelance journalist Ensafali Hedayat, and it voiced outrage at the UN Human Rights Commission's failure to condemn the Islamic Republic during its 60th session.
The organisation warned that Pourzand's life could be in great danger if he is not released immediately and given appropriate treatment. He has been paralysed for months and suffered a heart attack on 31 March that left him in a coma for 36 hours.
The refusal to free him on medical grounds suggests that the authorities have failed to learn any lesson from the death of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi on 10 July 2003 from a beating received in detention, the organisation said, calling for the release of all 12 journalists currently imprisoned in Iran.
In a continuing crackdown on freedom of expression, Hedayat was sentenced on 14 April by a court in the northwestern town of Tabriz to 18 months in prison, of which a year was for "insulting senior officials of the Islamic Republic" and six months for "propaganda against the regime."
At the same time, the title of "Best Leader of the Year" has just been awarded to Tehran state prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who as head of a "press tribunal" has been responsible for the closure of about 100 newspapers and the arrests of many journalists, and who has been directly implicated in Kazemi's death.
The award of this title to Mortazavi "would be the height of absurdity if the situation were not so tragic," Reporters Without Borders said, adding that the Islamic Republic was just highlighting its arbitrary and repressive nature by celebrating this travesty of justice.
"Amid these sinister developments, it is outrageous that none of the member countries of the UN Human Rights Commission, not even the countries of the European Union, has until now tabled a resolution condemning Iran," Reporters Without Borders added.
A freelance contributor to several independent newspapers, Pourzand has been in prison since 30 March 2003. He is bedridden with osteoarthritis of the neck and disk problems that need an operation. He went into a coma after a heart attack two weeks ago. He spent months in solitary confinement and was forced to confess on television by means of psychological pressure and torture.
Pourzand was previously arrested on 24 November 2001 and sentenced in May 2002 to eight years in prison for "actions against state security and links with monarchists and counter-revolutionaries." He had been allowed home in December 2002 before been returned to prison in March 2003.
Hedayat was arrested on 16 January 2004 on the orders of the Tabriz court when he returned from Germany. He was previously arrested on 16 June 2003 at Tabriz university while covering student protests.
With 12 journalists detained, Iran is the biggest prison for the press in the Middle East.
... Payvand News - 4/21/04 ... --