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Reporters Without Borders calls for law be applied and jailed Iranian journalists freed

Reporters Without Borders welcomed an order by head of the judiciary Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi that the law should be applied and abuses halted in the Islamic republic's prisons and courts, and urged the authorities to free 12 illegally imprisoned journalists.The international press freedom organisation also called for the journalists to be compensation for their imprisonment and the abuses they have suffered.

The Iranian press on 28 April published orders from the head of the judiciary addressed to the courts, police and security forces telling them to respect the law.

"During arrests or questioning, blindfolding, restraining pestering and insulting of detainees must be avoided. (...) Agents carrying out interrogation should not hide their faces, nor stand behind the accused backs, nor take them to secret locations (...) Any form of torture to extract a confession is banned (...) The directive added added that arrests and investigations "should be on the basis of clear legal charges. Lawyers must be present at trials" and "unnecessary imprisonment" avoided.

In the light of these statements, real official recognition of systematic violation of the law and the generalised practice of torture, Reporters Without Borders demands the release of journalists who had been illegally imprisoned :
-  Reza Alijani, editor of Iran-e-Farda and 2001 laureate of the Reporters Without Borders-Fondation de France press freedom award, has been imprisoned since 14 June 2003 along with Hoda Saber, publisher of Iran-e-Farda and Taghi Rahmani, journalist on Omid-e-Zangan. Held in solitary confinement for no reason, these three journalists have been deprived of their identity for nearly 11 months. Their lawyers have not even been able to see their files.
-  Ensafali Hedayat, independent journalist imprisoned on 16 January 2004, was sentenced in April to 18 months in prison. He has appealed the decision and paid the bail asked for and should therefore have been released, at least until the appeal court verdict.
-  Siamak Pourzand, independent journalist sentenced to eight years in prison, is has been detained since November 2000. Aged 74, he has been put under heavy psychological pressure and tortured during interrogation. After spending months in solitary confinement, Pourzand is currently in hospital.
-  Ali-Reza Jabari, journalist with the monthly Adineh, imprisoned since 17 March 2003, was sentenced to three years in prison and 253 lashes. Arrested for infringement of morals, it appears that his relations with the Association of Iranian Writers and his outspokenness were behind his arrest. Aged over 60, Jabari, who has heart problems, is held with common-law prisoners and has been treated even more harshly since a website posted a letter describing his prison conditions.
-  Hassan Yussefi Echkevari, theologian and journalist on Iran-e-Farda, he has been imprisoned since 5 August 2000. He was sentenced to seven years in prison without even attending his own trial. An insulin-dependent diabetic, he suffers from haemorrhage of the eyes and needs intensive care.
-  Akbar Ganji, journalist with the daily Sobh-e-Emouz, sentenced to six years in prison, he has been in custody since 22 April 2000. On 13 January 2001, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In May, his sentence was reduced on appeal to six months. But on 15 July 2001, the Supreme Court overturned this verdict and sentenced him to six years.
-  Iraj Jamshidi, editor of the financial daily Asia, in prison since 6 July 2003 and held for months in solitary confinement, has still not been tried.
-  Abbas Abdi, journalist on the daily Salam, in custody since 4 November 2002, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison along with Hossein Ghazian, of the daily Noruz, imprisoned since 31 October 2002. Some of the charges against these two journalists were dropped on order of the Supreme Court in April 2003, but the court did not rule on the rest of the charges against them.
-  Mostafa Sabti, publisher of the weekly Gorgan-e Emrouz, arrested on 19 March 2004, is serving a sentence of three months for defamation, which should put him in the category of "unnecessary sentences" mentioned by Shahrudi.

The statements made by the head of the judiciary reflect the recommendations made in his 2003 mission report by Louis Joinet, head of the working group on arbitrary detention and by Ambeyi Ligabo, UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion. International pressure has undeniably played a part in this astonishing turnaround in the Islamic Republic. Now it only remains for the recommendations to be applied.

... Payvand News - 5/3/04 ... --

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