Your Excellency,

As you are well aware, an unprecedented attack has started against the
press in Iran. Some seventeen newspapers, weeklies, and other 
publications have been ordered shut by the judiciary.

Unfortunately, as you also know, such actions run contrary to the
Constitution and civil legal code of the Islamic Republic of Iran in more
than one area:

- Article 37 of the Constitution states that "innocence is to be presumed,
and no one is to be held guilty of a charge unless his or her guilt has
been established by a competent court."

The principle of innocence not only is applicable in criminal cases but
also in legal and civil cases.  Article 365 of the Civil Legal Code also
states that, "innocence is to be presumed, therefore, if anybody claims a
right against someone, he or she should prove it, otherwise, in accordance
with this law the defendant will be declared innocent."

It is regrettable that the judicial authorities in Iran have openly
violated these laws, by presuming guilt on the part of the press, and
moving to "prevent" its further continuation, by banning them.

- Indeed, the principle of innocence entails that if a person commits an
action which is not recognized as a crime by law when the act is carried
out, he should not be punished for that act later on. If law recognizes
the same act as a crime later, such a law should not be applied

This principle has been incorporated in Article 169 of the Constitution of
the Islamic Republic of Iran: "no act or omission may be regarded as a
crime with retroactive effect on the basis of a law framed subsequently."

Article 11 of the Islamic Penal Code (ratified in 1990) states: "The state
laws, rules and regulations, as well as punishment, security, and
instructive measures should not be made with retroactive effect. No
individual should be punished for an act or giving up an act on the basis
of a law with retroactive effect."

Once again, even if the judiciary were to resort to the newly passed press
law by the Majlis, one could not justify its retroactive implementation,
according to these very laws.

- And finally regarding the press, we point your excellency's attention to the
following laws:

Clause 7 of the Article 3 of the Constitution states that the government's
duties include "ensuring political and social freedoms within the
framework of the law."

Article 3 of the Press Law of 1985 states that "the press should publish
criticism, and proposals of the people and officials taking into account
the expediencies of the society and Islamic rules and regulations."

Article 4 of the same law states that "no government authority or non
government person has the right to force the press to publish an article
or control or censor them."

Article 24 of the Constitution states that "publications and the press
have freedom of expression except when it is detrimental to the
fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public."

Stressing the freedom of the press, article 168 of the Constitution states
that "political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the
presence of a jury, in courts of justice. The manner of the selection of
the jury, its powers, and the definition of political offenses will be
determined by law in accordance with the Islamic criteria."

Article 34 of the Press Law states that, "press offenses should be
considered within a legal tribunal in the presence of a jury."

Such overwhelming legal backing for the press, their rights, and freedoms,
has been enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
and its laws - a Constitution which is the fruit of the struggles of the
Iranian people against dictatorship during the Islamic revolution of

As concerned Iranians abroad, who maintain no affiliations with
groups seeking the overthrow of the current system of government of
Iran, and respect the choice of the people of Iran as exemplified in
countless popular elections over the past 20 years, we respectfully call  
upon your excellency to safeguard the Constitution and laws of this  
ancient land. We are extremely concerned about the future course and 
fate of the free press in Iran, and urge you to take action on their