April 3, 2003 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Three more journalists arrested

Reporters Without Borders today accused the Iranian authorities of using the war in Iraq as a smokescreen to arrest more journalists for criticising the government. In the past two weeks, three - Behzad Khorshidi, Alireza Jabari and Siamak Pourzand - have been arrested and jailed during Iran New Year festivities after being summoned by the Adareh Amaken department of the Teheran police, which usually deals with public morality and is close to the intelligence ministry. "While the eyes of the world are on Iraq, we fear the regime is taking advantage by arresting its critics in its usual totally arbitrary way," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. He called on the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Sharudi, to free the journalists at once, along with nine others imprisoned earlier. Jabari was summoned by Adareh Amaken on 17 March and then arrested. A translator and freelance contributor to several independent newspapers, including Adineh, he was arrested at his office in Teheran last 28 December and freed on 6 February this year. Videotapes, books and his computer's hard drive were seized when he was arrested. An interview with him had appeared on 25 December in a Persian-language newspaper in Canada, Charvand, in which he said the country's hardline spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Guide of the Islamic Revolution, wanted the crisis in Iran to get worse. His new arrest may be connected with his recent statements to the media about his conditions of detention and the pressure exerted on him to make confessions. Khorshidi, editor of the monthly Piramon, was summoned by Adareh Amaken on 29 March. Since then, his family has had no news of him. He had been arrested on 17 March in similar circumstances and then freed a few days later. Pourzand, who contributes to opposition radio stations based in the United States, was arrested on 30 March and taken to Evin prison near Teheran. He been released conditionally in early December last year, a procedure sometimes used by the judiciary in response to international pressure. Since he had no document saying he had been officially released, he was liable to be arrested and jailed again at any time. The head of a Teheran artistic and cultural centre, he was arrested on 24 November 2001 and last May given an 11-year prison sentence for "spying and undermining state security" and "having links with monarchists and counter-revolutionaries." The court took into account the fact that he had made a confession. He had accepted the charges and said he had no reason to defend himself against them. His family had expressed concern that he had been forced to confess. The Teheran appeals court confirmed his sentence last June. He was freed after a broad international campaign on his behalf. He is thought to have been arrested again for refusing to make new "confessions" and for having contacts with several film critics. Between 26 and 28 February, Kambiz Kaheh, who writes for the film magazines Cinema-Jahan, Majaleh Film, Donyai Tassvir and Cinema-é-No, Said Mostaghasi, of Haftehnameh Cinema, Mohammad Abdi, editor of the monthly Honar Haftom, and Amir Ezati, of Mahnameh Film, were arrested at their homes. At the same time, Sepideh Abroaviz, Narghess Vishkai, Assal Samari and Mehrnaz Teherani, all journalists with film magazines, were interrogated by Adareh Amaken. Yasamin Soufi, another film journalist, was arrested and held twice (24-26 February and 17-20 March) by Adareh Amaken. Officials accused them of criticising the regime's cultural policies and of being close to Pourzand.