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Iranian journalist Taghi Rahmani has spent 5,000 days in prison


Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned the hounding by the authorities of Taghi Rahmani, who since 1981 has spent a total of 5,000 days in prison, sentenced each time in connection with his journalistic work.

Rahmani has been in jail this time for 19 months without charge and the worldwide press freedom organisation called on the Iranian authorities for his immediate and unconditional release.

With ten journalists behind bars, Iran is the Middle East's largest prison for the profession and is one of the world's ten most repressive countries in terms of press freedom.

"Under the direct orders of Supreme Guide Ayatollah Khamenei, the conservatives in power have made use of the country's courts to gag the media", the organisation said.

Rahmani has worked for several newspapers and most of his periods of work have been brought to an end by arrest. During repeated crackdowns in 1981, Rahmani was among several intellectuals arrested who worked for the underground newspaper Pishtazan and then spent three years in prison. He was arrested again in 1986 and sentenced to 11 years for his work on the newspaper Movahed, owned by a group of democratic religious intellectuals in favour of a separation of Islam from the State.

On leaving prison, he contributed to the monthly Iran--Farda and the weekly Oumid Zanjan. In February 2000, he was arrested with other journalists including Reza Alijani and Hoda Saber, after a roundup at the home of an Iranian intellectual.

After posting substantial bail, he was temporarily released in March 2001. His trial was held behind closed doors in May 2003 and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ten years loss of civil rights in connection with his work. He was again released on bail, while awaiting the outcome of his appeal, as allowed under the law.

Rahmani, Alijani and Saber were rearrested on 14 June 2003 on the order of the Tehran prosecutor, Said Mortazavi but no reason was given. Since then the case has been shrouded in mystery

On 15 October, court spokesman Golamhossein Elham, said the three journalists were serving a prison term but he did not give any reasons for their imprisonment, nor the date or place of their trial. On 1 May 2004, the journalists learned that their appeal had been held but their lawyers were given no information about it.

To this day, no papers have been given to their lawyers in connection with the trial and no official reason has been advanced to justify the detention of the three men.

One of the lawyers, Mr Ryahi, said on 27 January 2005 that Alijani and Saber could soon be conditionally released given that they had served half their sentences, but this measure still did not apply to Rahmani.

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