Reporters Without Borders welcomed an announcement by justice spokesman Jamal Karimi-Rad that nine people accused of links to reformist websites have been released in recent weeks, but regretted that seven journalists remain in prison in the same case.
"This gesture from the Iranian authorities does not mean they are easing up on their crackdown against online publications," said the worldwide press freedom organisation. "We fear that this apparent leniency may only be a smoke-screen to allow sentencing of the cyberjournalists. We repeat our call for them to be released."
The Iranian authorities have arrested around 20 people since September 2004, all suspected of contributing to news websites. Among them were people accused of being involved in technical management of sites, along with seven professional journalists accused of posting articles on the reformist sites.
These were : Javad Gholam Tamayomi, Omid Memarian, Shahram Rafihzadeh, Hanif Mazroi, Rozbeh Mir Ebrahimi, Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Fershteh Ghazi.
None of the journalists has so far been released. However Judge Jafar Saberi Zafarghandi was quoted by the official student press agency SNA as saying that Hanif Mazroi could be freed within few a few days on bail of 150-million rials (13,000 euros).
According to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, some of the journalists have been tortured and are believed to be psychologically weakened as a result. Under pressure from the authorities, Omid Memarian was forced to refuse the help of the lawyer Nemat Ahmadi.
Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, editor of Ferzaneh, a magazine dealing with the condition of women, was arrested on 1st November.
Fershteh Ghazi, another journalist activist for women's rights was imprisoned on 28 October.
Javad Gholam Tamayomi, a journalist on the daily Mardomsalari (Democracy) was arrested on 18 October.
Omid Memarian, journalist and weblog creator, was arrested on 10 October.
Shahram Rafihzadeh, cultural editor of the daily Etemad, was arrested on 7 September.
Hanif Mazroi, former journalist on several reformist press publications, was arrested on 8 September.
Rozbeh Mir Ebrahimi, former political editor of Etemad, was arrested at his home on 27 September.
... Payvand News - 11/11/04 ... --