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Detained Iranian journalist Elham Afroutan denounces hue and cry in foreign media

Tehran, Feb 23, IRNA-An Iranian journalist under temporary detention for allegedly insulting the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, denied news that she attempted to commit suicide in an interview with IRNA on Wednesday, and decried the hue and cry created by the Western media over her arrest.

Elham Afroutan (right) talks to reporter

Elham Afroutan also denied she has been in solitary confinement since her arrest as reported by the Western media, saying "I was in solitary confinement in Bandar Abbas for nine days immediately after my arrest but after being transferred to Tehran I was kept in a solitary cell in Evin Prison for only for 24 hours, following which I was transferred to the public ward."

Elaborating on her general condition, the detained journalist said, "I am an English translation student and, due to financial problems, in addition to working as a part-time journalist I was working at a dentist's office in Bandar Abbas."

She added: "I am a reporter of the provincial daily Tamaddon-e- Hormozgan, whose license holder is the MP from Banadar Abbas, Mr Dirbaz, and I am not 19, as it was stated in the news at the time of my arrest, but 21."

Further in the interview, Afroutan said: "On Saturday, a day before Eid-ul Qadir, since officials of our newspaper were all absent and we needed an article to fill a blank space in a page, I surfed the Internet and selected an article titled `Methods Which the Public Should Know in the Fight against AIDS' written by a person named M F Sokhan, and I sent this to the layout section without carefully reading its contents."

Stressing that the article in question was not written by her, she said that "there was neither any ill intention nor any pre-conceived plot behind the publication of the article." "Frankly speaking, all that can be said is that the crime which I am accused of is the result of an unintentional mistake," she added.

She went on to say that "a week after the publication and notwithstanding the fact that only 15 copies of the newspaper were published and sold as the rest were confiscated by Intelligence Ministry officials, I was arrested."

The detained journalist, who introduced herself as "the daughter of a prestigious military officer," said she considered herself "a child of the Islamic Revolution who is indebted to it and its late founder, Imam Khomeni, and as such had by no means intended to insult the great leader or be impolite."

"You might be surprised to hear that I myself have not thoroughly read the article in question and I assure you that I am awfully sorry for the hue and cry that has been created over it."

Denying the news on her suicide once again, she said: "It is regrettable that some satellite TV channels and certain opportunist people have tried to incite world public opinion against our dear country by broadcasting such lies."

Afroutan said she was now being kept in "a room in the Women's Ward of Evin Prison," adding that she was quite pleased with conditions there. "Most of the women in this ward are awaiting trial for alleged financial scams."

Expressing disgust over the moves of certain anti-revolutionary groups of exploiting this issue politically, she emphasized that she was not interested in political matters. "My main interest, after journalism and English language, is arts, and I never thought that I would one day end up in this crisis."

She asked that she be forgiven, "first by the exalted soul of the late founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khoemini, and then by the great Iranians whose feelings have been hurt due to her `unintentional' mistake."

Afroutan confessed that before she entered Evin Prison she pictured the place much like how it was portrayed in the movie titled "Women's Ward."

"Now I realize that assumptions can be far from reality and the way Iranian prisons have been portrayed have been far from the reality."

She added: "Right now, the warden of Evin Prison and my friends in the ward all sympathize with me and have added their voice to my assertion that there was no ill intention in the publication of the article in question."

Afroutan said that her dream has been to write for children and that after she is released she intends to "write stories for the children of my dear country Iran."

Related Article:

Concern for Iranian journalist Elham Afroutan

... Payvand News - 2/24/06 ... --

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