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Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji granted leave from prison

Photos: Iranian Students News Agency

Tehran, May 30, IRNA-Jailed journalist Akbar Ganji was granted a weeklong leave for medical reasons late Sunday night, subject to a probable extension depending on his medical report, judiciary officials announced Monday.

"If forensic medicine diagnoses Ganji as needing treatment and an operation, the issue of extending the period of his leave will be processed," the deputy head of the Tehran Justice Department, Mohammad Salarkia, said.

Ganji is reportedly suffering from asthma, with several internet news sites recently saying that he had gone on a hunger strike to protest alleged inattention of the jail wardens to his condition.

Speaking to a group of journalists, who met him at his home Monday, Ganji called for the release of all jailed political activists and journalists.

"I believe all political prisoners and jailed webloggers and journalists must be immediately released without any pre-condition," he said.

His wife, Masoumeh Shafi'ie, had earlier said that Ganji had rejected a weeklong prison leave, arguing he needed one month out of jail to seek treatment.

Ganji is serving a six-year jail term since January 2001 on a battery of charges, including for linking some of the country's top officials to a string of murders of Iranian intellectuals, which were blamed on rogue intelligence agents.

One of his cellmates dissident cleric Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari was released in February after serving about two-thirds of his seven-year jail term on a series of charges.

Last month, Iran's Judiciary had to reject media reports that Ganji's health had taken a turn for the worse.

"Ganji's general condition is good and he has no acute physical problem in prison," Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi-Rad told IRNA.

He was reacting to reports published in certain websites and foreign media that Ganji was ill and that the health of the journalist who has been in jail since 2001, had started to deteriorate.

"Not just Ganji, but all prisoners are undergoing regular check-ups and supervision of the (Evin) prison's health team," Karimi-Rad said.

The official stated that Ganji had been granted a five-day leave during Iran's Norouz holidays, between March 21 and April 1, where he had 'overstayed the leave for nine days and then returned to prison'.

Eshkevari had been jailed for spreading lies, insulting Islamic sanctities as well as participating in a controversial conference in Berlin, denounced here as aiming to topple the Islamic Republic.

An appeals court in Tehran once quashed his death sentence, handed down by the Special Court for the Clergy, on apostasy charges.

The mid-ranking cleric was arrested on August 5, 2000 upon his return from the Berlin conference on 'changes in Iran', sponsored by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which is linked to Germany's Greens party.

The political conference in Berlin was attended by 15 reformist activists and two translators. They were all summoned to the revolutionary court and faced trials, with the exception of Eshkevari, whose case was referred to the special clergy court as he is a cleric.

Among them were Ganji and student leader Ali Afshari who was released from jail after writing a repentance letter.

The meeting was frequently interrupted by banned Iranian opposition groups. Television pictures showed one man disrobing and a woman dancing.

The meeting was branded as a threat to national security and the participants were upbraided for having 'disgraced' the country in front of 'counter-revolutionaries'.

Six defendants who attended the conference were acquitted.

... Payvand News - 5/30/05 ... --

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