Hassan Youssefi Echkevari of the monthly magazine Iran-e-Farda was freed provisionally on 6 February, two years before completing a seven-year sentence. Reporters Without Borders welcomes his release but points out that nine other journalists are still detained. For years, Iran has been the biggest prison for the press in the Middle East.
Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the provisional release yesterday of Hassan Youssefi Echkevari of the monthly magazine Iran-e-Farda two years before completion of a seven-year prison term but pointed out that nine other journalists are still held in Tehran's Evin prison in very harsh conditions. "Iran's journalists are still constantly the victims of arbitrary arrests," the press freedom organization said. "More than 10 newspapers were temporarily suspended or permanently closed in 2004 and at least 60 journalists were summoned for questioning by the authorities." Reporters Without Borders also stressed that some of the journalists in Evin prison are not getting the medical treatment they needed. Arrested on 5 August 2000, Echkevari was sentenced to seven years in prison in a secret trial before a special religious court in October 2000. He was accused of subversive activities against national security, defaming the authorities, attack the prestige of the clergy and of being a "mohareb," one who fights God. As a prisoner, Echkevari was adopted by Macadam Tribu (Radio-Canada). Reporters Without Borders set up a system of "sponsorship" 15 years ago, calling on international news media to adopt and support imprisoned journalists. More than 200 news media around the world are supporting journalists by regularly contacting the relevant authorities to request their release and by publicising their cases so that they will not be forgotten. Ministry suspends weekly The Ministry of Islamic Guidance ordered the suspension of the weekly Jaame until further notice on 27 January, less than six months after it first came out. Editor Hassan Zarezadeh Ardeshir, who has been imprisoned several times since 1997, attributed the suspension to the fact that they carried information about human rights in Iran. A lower court in Tehran sentenced him on 1 February to another seven years in prison for his political and journalistic activities. Appeal court upholds one-year prison sentence for leading pro-reform journalist The one-year prison sentence imposed on pro-reform journalist Emadoldin Baghi by the 6th section of the Tehran revolutionary court on 4 December 2003 without any grounds being given has just been upheld by the 36th chamber of the Tehran appeal court, Baghi's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakhat, said on 5 February. Baghi could be detained as soon as he is notified of the decision. Baghi has often been summoned to appear before judicial officials since his release in February 2003 after spending three years in prison. And in order to silence him, Tehran state prosecutor Said Mortazavi suspended his daily newspaper Jomhouriat last July. Baghi is the founder of an organization that defends prisoners' rights. Imprisoned journalist seriously ill Journalist Akbar Ganji, who has been in prison since 22 April 2000, is seriously ill and needs immediate hospitalization, but this is being blocked by the judicial authorities although doctors at Evin prison have been saying for three years that he needs hospital treatment. He has back problems and asthma which has been made worse by conditions inside the prison. His lawyer, 2003 Nobel laureate Shirin Edabi, said she was extremely worried about his state of health. Ganji is not able to telephone his wife and is rarely allowed to leave the prison, although the law permits this. In the course of the four years he has spent in prison, he has been allowed only 40 day-passes, most of which he used for medical appointments. Ganji was convicted because of his revelations about the murders of government opponents and intellectuals at the end of 1998 and because of his accusations against political leaders.