Journalist Akbar Ganji announced yesterday in a statement issued through his lawyer, Youssef Molai, that he has begun "an unlimited hunger strike" to protest against his imprisonment, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.
Reporters Without Borders reacted by warning the Iranian authorities that they will held responsible for any deterioration in his already poor state of health.
"It is insane that a hunger strike is the only recourse for imprisoned journalists who are trying to obtain their rights as detainees, including the right to make phone calls or to be let out of the prison for short periods," the press freedom organization said. "Ganji's case is serious because he has not even been able to have the treatment which is required by his condition and which has been recommended by his doctors."
Ganji said in his statement : "I protest against my illegal and unjust imprisonment, all the more so because I cannot even pursue my treatment outside Evin prison. I am beginning an unlimited hunger strike this evening. No one should be imprisoned - not even for a second - for expressing an opinion."
22.04.2005 - Akbar Ganji is seriously ill after five years in prison
Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who completes his fifth year in Tehran's Evin prison tomorrow, is seriously ill and should be granted an immediate and unconditional release, Reporters Without Borders said today.
"Ganji is one of Iran's leading journalists and, at the same time, the one who has been imprisoned for the longest period," the press freedom organization said. "We call on the judicial authorities to stop ignoring the prison doctors, who have been saying for three years that he needs to be let out of prison for treatment. His condition requires immediate hospitalization and the Iranian authorities will be held responsible for their criminal attitude."
Reporters Without Borders added : "Ganji was imprisoned five years ago and is being denied his rights as a prisoner now because he criticised the impunity prevailing in Iran in his articles and because he participated in the pro-reform debate."
Ganji, who worked on the daily paper Sobh-e-Emrooz, was arrested on 22 April 2000 after appearing before the press court accused of writing that leading figures, including former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, had been involved in the murder of opponents and intellectuals in late 1998. He was also accused of taking part in a conference in Berlin about reform in Iran which the government charged was "anti-Islamic."
He was sentenced on 13 January 2001 to 10 years in prison but the appeal court reduced this to six months on 15 May 2001. However on 15 July 2001, the supreme court quashed the May sentence on technical grounds and imposed a six-year jail sentence.
He is being held in solitary confinement and, unlike other political prisoners, is not allowed to phone his wife, and is rarely allowed to leave the prison, although the law permits this. In the course of his five years in prison, he has been allowed only 40 day-passes, most of them for medical appointments. Hospital doctors have recommended that he be hospitalized for back problems and asthma, which has got worse because of his prison conditions, but the judicial authorities continue to block this. His lawyer, Nobel peace laureate Shirin Edabi, has voiced great concern about his state of health.
The repression meanwhile continues in Iran. Several journalists were summoned for questioning in March by different judicial and security authorities. Kivan Samimi, the editor of the monthly Nameh, was summoned on 30 March by a Tehran court. Mohamad Javad Roh of the daily newspaper Shargh was summoned several times and was threatened over his articles about the elections.
A human rights organization recently formed by journalists in the western province of Kurdistan has reported a major crackdown on the press there and said 14 journalists were summoned by courts in the city of Sanandaj.
Those who were summoned are Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand, Ejlal Ghavami, Tonya Kabovand, Namo Hedayati, Yosef Azizi, Kaveh Hosinpanahi, Jahangir Hashemi, Jamshid Vaziri, Hasan Amini and Majid Mohamadi of the weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan, Roya Tolou, the editor of the weekly Resan, Abdolah Sohrabi, the publisher of the weekly Rouj Halat, and Saman Solimani, its editor, and Hossin Ahmadinyazi, the editor or the weekly Asoo.
They have all been accused of "publishing false news and publicity against the regime" and "attacking national security."
Over 15 years ago, Reporters without Borders created its "Sponsorship Programme" and called upon the international media to select and support an imprisoned journalist. More than two hundreds news staffs around the globe are thus sponsoring colleagues by regularly petitioning authorities for their release and by publicising their situations so that their cases will not be forgotten. Currently, Akbar Ganji is sponsored by Le Devoir, Nice-Matin, La Montagne
... Payvand News - 5/23/05 ... --