August 29, 2003 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Journalist Pirouz Davani, missing for 5 years, is glaring case of impunity

Reporters Without Borders called today on Iran to seriously investigate the disappearance of Pirouz Davani, editor of the newspaper Pirouz, who vanished from his home in late August 1998. Davani, whose body was never found, belonged to the pro-Soviet communist party Tudeh in the 1980s and was imprisoned as a result from 1982 to 1989. The authorities have never showed any interest in solving his disappearance and those responsible for it thus enjoy total impunity. The press freedom organisation noted that international law has established that disappearance is a form of torture, for the victim's family as well as the victim, when the person is being held in a secret place. It urged the Iranian authorities to find out and say what happened to him, for the sake of justice and his family and friends. Davani appears to have been murdered. The newspaper Kar-e-Karagar on 28 November 1998 reported rumours he had been "executed." In late November 2000, Akbar Ganji, of the paper Sobh-é-Emrouz, who was working on the case, confirmed the rumours and said Mohsseni Ejehi, the prosecutor of the special ecclesiastical court, was involved in the killing. Regime officials have never commented on this. Last December, Davani's family filed a complaint before the UN Commission for Human Rights. Iran, where killers of journalists walk free Several intellectuals and regime opponents were murdered in Iran in November and December 1998, including Daryush and Parvaneh Foruhar (prominent liberals), Majid Sharif, columnist of the monthly Iran-é-Farda, and writers and journalists Mohamad Mokhtari and Mohamad Jafar Pouyandeh. The killings outraged much of the reformist press. The authorities set up a commission of enquiry and in January 1999, the intelligence ministry officially admitted its agents were involved and announced the arrest of dozens of suspects. Three intelligence ministry officials were sentenced to death and 12 others to prison terms in January 2001 for murdering the Foruhars. Three other people suspected of being involved were acquitted. The case was sent to the supreme court which confirmed the verdict. Two of the group were jailed for 15 years. The victims' families pointed out that those who ordered the killings had not been touched. More recently, Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who lived in Canada, was arrested on 23 June this year as she took pictures of prisoners' families in front of Teheran's Evin prison. She died on 11 July from injuries caused by her beating in detention. After trying to cover up the cause of her death, the authorities admitted she had been beaten. Her body was hastily buried on 22 July in the southern town of Shiraz. The fiercely anti-media Teheran prosecutor, Judge Said Mortazavi, reportedly tried to cover up her death and pushed for a quick burial. Two employees of the pro-reformist intelligence ministry were charged on 25 August by the Teheran prosecutor's office with "complicity in semi-intentional murder." But the ministry immediately denied they were involved, saying it had proof that legal officials had been involved, without giving details. The power-struggle between the regime's hardliners and reformists have so far obstructed efforts to find out the truth. Ali Khamenei, predator of press freedom Ali Khamenei, Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic, is on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of "predators of press freedom." Since the 1997 election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, a power-struggle has raged between Khatami and Khamenei, the country's top religious and political leader, who controls the judiciary. This has involved a crackdown on the media, which largely backed the Khatami at the 1997 and 2001 elections. Iran is the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East, with 20 presently detained.