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Akbar Ganji freed

Reporters Without Borders hailed the release today of Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji from Evin prison, north of the capital, where he had been held since April 2000.

The Iranian judicial authorities said he was granted a conditional release for the Persian New Year, which begins on 21 March and ends on 3 April. As his sentence was officially due to end on 30 March, it seems unlikely that he will be returned to prison.

"We are delighted by Ganji's release and we thank all those in Iran and abroad who defended his cause" Reporters Without Borders said. "The international campaign on his behalf will not have been in vain. Nonetheless, we point out that four other journalists and two bloggers are still detained in Iran."

Reached by Reporters Without Borders, Ganji said he was "relieved" to be out of prison but was "physically very debilitated." He now weighs only 48 kg, suffers from pains in the knee and the back and will have to undergo an operation soon. He said he thanked "all those who have given me support during the last six years."

A writer for the pro-reform daily newspapers Sobh-e-Emrouz, Neshat and Asr-e-Azadegan and editor of the weekly Rah-e-No, Ganji was arrested in on 22 April 2000 on his return from a conference in Berlin about reform in Iran which the authorities deemed to have been anti-Islamic. He had caused offence by writing articles linking senior regime officials such as Ali Fallahian and Hashemi Rafsandjani to a series of murders of dissidents and writers in late 1998.

A court sentenced him on January 2001 to 10 years in prison for "attacking state security," for "insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic and the regime's sacred values" and for "propaganda against the Islamic Republic." An appeal court reduced his prison terms to six months in May 2001 but, two months later, the supreme court increased it again to six years on the grounds of irregularities during the appeal procedure.

He began a six-week hunger strike on 11 June 2005 during which he lost 25 kg in weight. US President George Bush, the European Union and many international human rights organisations had repeatedly called for his release.

Reporters Without Borders also thanked all the news media who took up Ganji's cause as part of the organisation's system of adoption of imprisoned journalists.

... Payvand News - 3/20/06 ... --

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