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Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji may die after 50-day hunger-strike

Reporters Without Borders today (July 29, 2005) condemned what it called "the criminal attitude" of Iran's top leaders in refusing to release journalist Akbar Ganji, who has now been on hunger-strike for nearly 50 days.

"They must release him for humanitarian reasons. He has been unjustly detained for more than five years but he is a determined man," the worldwide press freedom organisation said, calling on the international community and journalists everywhere to join in exerting pressure on the Iranian government.

Ganji will begin his 50th day without food on 31 July. He now weighs only 52 kg and is unconscious much of the day. He stopped eating on 11 June to protest against his imprisonment and conditions of detention.

His wife, who was allowed to see him for a few minutes in hospital on 28 July, said he was extremely weak. He opened his eyes and saw her but then fell back into unconsciousness.

Teheran state prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who was also at the hospital, once again accused her of wanting to kill her husband, a charge that has already appeared in a pro-government newspaper.

Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage at this attitude and Mortazavi's insulting remarks. It said Ganji's suffering was the result of the regime's hatred of him for his in-depth journalism and his fight for freedom of expression in Iran.

Ganji's condition has not improved despite his transfer to Milad Hospital, in northern Teheran, on 17 July. But Mortazavi is still pressing for him to have an operation that requires a general anaesthetic even though doctors say he is not strong enough for that.

Ganji's lawyer, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, told reporters she was "very worried" about his health. She has not been allowed to visit him.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the arrest on 25 July of another journalist, Masoud Bastani, who works for several reformist newspapers, including Etemad, Toseeh and Joumhoryat, and has written a lot about Ganji's plight. He is being held at Teheran's Evin prison, has not been allowed to receive visitors and may be transferred with common-law prisoners to a prison in Arak, in central Iran.

"As well as being willing to let Ganji die, the authorities are also hounding and arresting those who have to courage to defend him," the organisation said, calling for his release.

... Payvand News - 7/31/05 ... --

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