Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of Reza Alijani, editor of the monthly Iran-e-Farda, and laureate of the Reporters Without Borders-Fondation de France 2001 press freedom award. He has been detained since 14 June 2003, together with Hoda Saber, one of the bosses of Iran-e-Farda and Taghi Rahmani, of the weekly Omid-e-Zangan. The case is murky in the extreme.
Alijani is currently the only Reporters Without Borders laureate who remains behind bars. Initially held in solitary confinement and then in the special wing of Evin Jail, he will shortly mark his first year of unfair imprisonment, along with Saber and Rahmani.
"Despite statements of good intentions by head of the judiciary, Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, who announced steps to improve respect for the law in Iran, the jailing of Alijani illustrates how far the Islamic Republic is from complying with minimum human rights standards," said Reporters Without Borders.
"As the European Union opens its fourth year of 'constructive dialogue' with Tehran on this question on the 14-15 June, we insist on pointing out that press freedom has only worsened. It is time for the European Union to draw the obvious conclusion and to strongly condemn this regime," Reporters Without Borders said.
- Alijani was sentenced at the end of a closed-doors trial on 10 May 2003, to six years in prison and ten years loss of civil rights, Rahmani to 11 years in prison and ten years of loss of civil rights and Saber to ten years in prison and ten years loss of civil rights. The three journalists were all sentenced in connection with their work. They each posted substantial bail to remain at liberty while awaiting the outcome of an appeal, as allowed under law.
- On 14 June 2003, the three men were arrested without explanation on the order of the Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi.
- Golamhossein Elham, spokesman for the judiciary, confirmed on 15 October that the three journalists were serving their prison sentences, but he gave no reasons for their imprisonment, nor the date or place of their trial.
- Until 30 October they were all kept in solitary confinement. Then they shared the same cell. Their lawyers have not had access to their files and their families have been denied regular visits.
- On 1st May 2004, Alijani found out that their appeal had been heard. The following day the three journalists' lawyers told a press conference, "We have received no information about the sentences. We still do not have access to our clients' files."
- On 7 June, the lawyers had still not received any documents relating to the trial or any official explanation for the imprisonment of the three men.
Reza Alijani, biographical details:
- Alijani joined Iran-e-Farda in 1992 and later took over as editor. Under his leadership, the monthly became a magazine of reference for reformists and was highly popular with students. Alijani was frequently summoned before revolutionary courts over his articles in support of press freedom. Having already been tortured and detained in the 1980s for his involvement with an underground publication, Alijani was already known to the Iranian authorities.
- In January 1999, he received death threats from a fundamentalist organisation that had admitted responsibility for murders of intellectuals in 1998. Alijani refused to be silenced. In an interview with the daily Arya, he referred, for the first time in Iran, to the 1988 murders by the authorities of thousands of prisoners. On 24 February 2001, ten months after the banning of Iran-e-Farda, the journalist was arrested by agents of the security forces and held for 200 days in a single cell before being put in with two other journalists Hoda Saber and Taghi Rahmani. He was released on bail on 16 December 2001.
His trial was held on 10 May 2003. He was initially released on bail then imprisoned again on 14 June 2003.
Aged 42, Alijani is father of two children.
With 13 journalists behind bars, Iran is the Middle East's biggest prison for journalists.