2. IRAN CRACKS DOWN ON JOURNALISTS WITH DEATH SENTENCES, PRISON TERMS
Iranian authorities have stepped up their efforts to persecute and jail
journalists, activists and human rights defenders, report human rights
groups worldwide. Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières,
RSF) wants you to sign a petition demanding the release of two of their
latest victims: Iranian Kurdish journalists whose death sentences were
confirmed by the authorities on 31 July.
Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed "Hiva" Botimar both wrote for the weekly
magazine "Aso" until it was banned by the government in August 2005,
forcing it to halt reports on the widespread unrest that broke out in
Kurdish areas following the death of a 25-year old Kurd who was shot by
police in Mahabad. The riots were violently suppressed by the authorities.
RSF is appealing to the international community to ask Iran, one of the
world's leading practitioners of the death penalty, to reverse its decision
and refrain from executing the two men "who only exercised their right to
inform their fellow citizens." Sign RSF's petition here:
The journalists are believed to have been given death sentences - in closed
trials - for being "mohareb" ("enemies of God") and "acting against
national security" - for expressing their views on the Kurdish issue.
Hassanpour, who also contributed to foreign media outlets including Voice
of America and the Prague-based Radio Farda, was detained in January and
was held incommunicado without charge. Botimar, an active member of the
environmental organisation Sabzchia, was arrested in December 2006. The
Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) says both men experienced torture and
degrading treatment in prison.
KHRP is concerned that the judgment will be implemented within three weeks
if there is no international intervention. RSF reports that on 3 August,
the European Union stepped forward and reminded Iran that it is signatory
to international covenants that affirm the right to a fair trial.
International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) and KHRP believe
that Botimar and Hassanpour were not only targeted for being journalists,
but also for being Kurdish. According to WiPC, an "apparent pattern of
repression against journalists and human rights activists in Iranian
Kurdistan" has been ongoing since unrest broke out in 2005. Several other
Iranian-Kurdish journalists are currently detained, and four Kurdish
intellectuals were arrested a week after the death sentences were handed
down for their activities in support of Hassanpour and Botimar, says WiPC.
Continuing the pattern of Iran's latest crackdown, RSF reports on a number
of cases of journalists being targeted. Journalist Soheil Assefi was
arrested when he presented himself to a Tehran court on 4 August in
response to a summons. Neither his family nor his lawyers know where he is
being held or what he is charged with. Officials from the prosecutor's
office searched his home on 31 July, taking personal documents and his
computer's hard disk.
Also on 31 July, editor Emadoldin Baghi was sentenced to three years in
prison for writing articles that defended persons who were sentenced to
death in southern Iran, while his wife and daughter received three-year
suspended sentences for participating in a series of human rights workshops
in Dubai. Emadoldin edited the "Jomhouriat" newspaper, until it was closed
down by the authorities in September 2004, while his wife was editor of the
now-defunct monthly "Jameh-e-no".
Journalist Farshad Gorbanpour, who works for the news website Roozonline,
was arrested and sent to Tehran's Evin prison, also on 31 July. The charges
against him have not been revealed.
"These developments confirm that the human rights situation in Iran is
getting worse by the day," says RSF.
IFEX members have recently reported on the increased harassment of women's
groups, students and U.S.-Iranian dual nationals. According to RSF, Iran
continues to be the Middle East's biggest prison for the press - 11
journalists and cyber-dissidents are currently in jail, in often
deteriorating conditions. Human Rights Watch reports that student editors
and activists who were arrested in May and June on "politically motivated
charges" have been subject to beatings, 24-hour interrogation sessions,
sleep deprivation and threats at the hands of the authorities who are
trying to extract confessions.