(RSF/IFEX) - Eight years after the brutal murders of five Iranian writers and journalists between 25 November and 12 December 1998, Reporters Without Borders has condemned that fact that those implicated in their deaths now hold high government positions. The victims were strangled or stabbed to death for demanding free expression, calling for a lay government or criticising the regime's policies.
"The Iranian government has been arbitrarily arresting, torturing and killing writers and journalists for years," Reporters Without Borders said. "A sham judicial system has ensured that no light has been shed on these crimes and no one has been held responsible. The regime does not just silence dissidents, it also protects and promotes those implicated in their murders."
The press freedom organisation added: "The years pass, but we continue to follow these cases together with the families of the victims and we will never stop demanding an international commission of enquiry in order to know the truth."
Dariush Forouhar and his wife, Parvaneh, both leading members of the liberal opposition, were found stabbed to death in their Tehran home on 22 November 1998. Writers and journalists Majid Sharif, Mohamad Mokhtari and Mohamad Jafar Pooyandeh all disappeared between 25 November and 9 December 1998. Their bodies were found a few days later in a Tehran suburb.
Pirouz Davani, the editor of the newspaper "Pirouz", also disappeared at the end of August 1998. His body was never found. Fellow journalist Akbar Ganji was prosecuted and held in Evin prison for six years for, among other things, referring to rumours that Davani was "executed" and for linking special religious court prosecutor Mohseni Ejehi to his death (see IFEX alerts of 20 March 2006, 10 November, 7 September, 22, 9 and 2 August 2005, and others).
Ganji told Reporters Without Borders: "These cases represent just a minuscule portion of the atrocities committed by the regime during these year in which evil has become commonplace. The authorities did what was necessary to silence these journalists."
Despite strong evidence that high-ranking officials were involved, there has never been any political will to bring them to justice. Three of the most prominent suspects, current Interior Minister Mostafa Purmohammadi, current Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei and Public Prosecutor Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi (a former intelligence minister) have never been questioned or arrested. Only some 15 Intelligence Ministry agents were convicted and given sentences ranging from three to 12 years in prison.
In the same way, Tehran State Prosecutor Said Mortazavi continues to be one of the pillars of the regime despite being implicated in the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while she was in custody (see alerts of 11 July 2006, 21 November, 26 May, 13 and 1 April and 11 February 2005, and others).
Two of the lawyers representing the families of Kazemi and the journalists killed in 1998, Nasser Zarafashan and Abdolfattah Soltani, have been prosecuted for "revealing judicial case information." Zarafashan is still imprisoned. Soltani was given a conditional release on 5 March 2006 after spending more than 200 days in detention.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are on the Reporters Without Borders list of the world's 35 worst press freedom predators.
... Payvand News - 12/13/06 ... --