Reporters Without Borders condemns the Islamic Republic’s continuing serious violations of the rights of journalists and those who defend freedom of information. Human rights activists have been given long jail sentences in the past few days, journalists are still being arrested, and the health of two imprisoned journalists is currently the source of grave concern.
Jailed human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani was notified yesterday that a Tehran revolutionary court has sentenced him to 18 years in prison and 20-year ban on working as lawyer.
One of the founders of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi’s Centre for Human Rights Defenders, Soltani was arrested on 10 September 2011 during a raid by plain-clothes officials from the intelligence ministry. He was previously arrested on 16 June 2009 and was held for 70 days before being released on 100 million tomans (90,000 euros) in bail.
An appeal court today upheld a six-year jail sentence for another of Ebadi’s colleagues, Narges Mohammadi, a woman journalist who acted as spokesperson of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders.
Several other human rights lawyers are serving jail sentences on charges of “meeting and conspiring against the Islamic Republic,” anti-government propaganda and “collaborating” with the centre. They include two of its founder members, Mohammad Seifzadeh, arrested in April 2011 and sentenced to nine years in prison and a ten-year ban on working as lawyer, and Nasrin Sotoudeh, arrested in September 2010 and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
One of the latest journalists to be arrested in Ali Mousavi Khalkhali, who worked for the Irdiplomacy news website and who is a nephew of Ayatollah Hakim, a senior Shiite cleric of Iranian origin in Iraq. Khalkhali was arrested by intelligence ministry officials at his home on 24 February and is now in Tehran’s Evin prison.
Nazanin Khosravani, a journalist who writes for several reformist newspapers such as Norooz and Sarmayeh, was summoned before a judge yesterday and was taken off to Evin prison to begin serving the six-year sentence she received from a Tehran revolutionary court on 19 April 2011 on charges of anti-government propaganda and activities threatening national security. Originally arrested at her home by intelligence ministry officials on 2 November 2010, she had been released after 135 days in detention.
Reporters Without Borders is very worried about the health of Issa Saharkhiz, the jailed editor of several independent newspapers including the now-closed monthly Aftab (Sun), who was taken to Shariati Hospital’s intensive care unit after an argument with a guard in Rajishaha prison. This is the second time he has been hospitalized in two months.
Arrested on 4 July 2009, Saharkhiz was initially sentenced by a Tehran revolutionary court to three years in prison on a charge of anti-government propaganda. Then, in August 2011, he was given an additional two-year jail term in connection with his journalistic activities prior to his arrest. He has had serious heart problems several times while in detention.
Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about the physical condition of Mehdi Khazali, the editor of the blog Baran, who was arrested on 9 January for the third time in less than two years. According to his family, his health worsened after he went on strike in protest against his arrest. He was sentenced on 5 February to four years in prison and 10 years of exile in the southern city of Borazjan on a charge of insulting government officials.