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Press freedom group asks Ganji to call off hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard appealed to imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji to call off his hunger strike today, as dozens of plain-clothes agents of the Tehran state prosecutor raided his home, insulted and roughed up his wife and daughter, and threatened to arrest them for "spying."

The raid on Ganji's Tehran home began at around 9:00 a.m. and lasted an hour. The agents searched the apartment and seized many documents, photo albums, computer diskettes, diaries and personal effects belonging to his daughter. His wife, Massoumeh Shafiie, was handcuffed, hit and threatened with arrest for "transmitting information to foreign media." His daughter was threatened.

Letter to Akbar Ganji

Paris, 8 August 2005

Dear friend,

I know this message will reach you, even if your hospital bed is under surveillance. I want to talk to you as a friend.

We need you, dear Akbar. We need your courage and your combative spirit to continue the fight. I am writing to you to ask you to end your hunger strike. Today, your wife, Massoumeh Shafiie, your lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, and I refuse to let you drift slowly into something from which there is no return. As from today, your body could begin to suffer irreversible harm. We do not want to lose one of the noblest and most powerful voices - the journalist Akbar Ganji.

I know that you will agree to listen to your friends and that you will have the courage to accept that they are right.

I want to reiterate to you that we are at your side, that we were there yesterday and we want to continue to be there tomorrow. We will not cease to inform public opinion, to put pressure on politicians and to shake often unmoving entities until you are given your freedom, you and the four other journalists in prison in Iran - Hossein Ghazian, Slamak Pourzand, Ejlal Eghvami and Roya Touloui.

You have done a great deal to ensure that your contemporaries are aware of the disastrous state of freedoms in Iran. Before, you did it by investigating, writing and exposing the real face of those who hold power in Iran. Now, since 11 June, you have been doing it by not eating, in order to force your tormentors to render you justice. Your hunger strike has clearly shown that "justice" is a word that is unknown to the judges who convicted you. They do not serve fairnessand the law, they are the servile thugs of a despotic regime.

Your revolt has echoed around the world. US President George W. Bush, the European Union and France have all publicly called for your release. International human rights organisations are campaigning on your behalf. Ten Nobel laureates including your friend Shirin Ebadi and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have together condemned the Iranian government's behaviour and have asked Tehran-based diplomats to go to your bedside. On Saturday, the British ambassador in Iran, Sir Richard Dalton, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency, tried to see you. The Iranian foreign ministry refused, wrapping itself in nationalist pride of poor taste. By drawing all eyes to your hospital bed, you have forced the world to look at Iran's suffering in the face.

I hope to hear from you as soon as possible.

Robert Ménard

... Payvand News - 8/9/05 ... --

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