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Two journalists held without charge in Azeri provinces of Iran

Reporters Without Borders today called for the "immediate release" of two Azeri journalists, Amin Movahedi, who was detained yesterday in the northern city of Meshkinshar, and Orouj Amiri, detained the day before in the nearby city of Marannd. Their arrests follow demonstrations by members of Iran's Azeri ethnic minority against the Tehran government.

"Absolutely no charges have been brought against Movahedi and Amiri and the authorities have not said where they are being held," the press freedom said. "These journalists are being subjected to illegal harassment simply for working independently."

Movahedi was arrested by gunmen in civilian dress as he left his home in Meshkinshar (in Ardabil province). The police and judicial authorities know him as someone who is critical of the regime and he was already detained by the intelligence services for three days last December.

Amiri, who writes for several local papers, was arrested as his home in Marannd (in East Azerbaijan province) by plain-clothes police who hit him when he asked to see their warrant. They searched his home and took personal documents, CDs and the hard disk of his computer. His wife was forcibly led away for protesting against his arrest.

There have been a series of demonstrations in the northern provinces since the official daily newspaper Iran on 12 May published a cartoon of a cockroach asking "What?" in the Azeri language. More than 50 people were arrested during an anti-government demonstration by thousands of Azeris outside the headquarters of the governor of East Azerbaijan province in Tabriz on 22 May.

Although the newspaper quickly apologized to the Azeri minority, the authorities have suspended its publication and arrested two of its journalists (see our release of 24 May). The regime is also doing everything possible to prevent the news media in the north of the country from covering the Azeri protests.

Hadi Dehghani, the editor of the weekly Saghi, was attacked by thugs on the street. Peymant Pakmeher, a freelance journalist and editor of the Tabriz News website, has been threatened several times. The authorities also blocked access to the site and cut its telephone.

... Payvand News - 5/29/06 ... --

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