Two journalists jailed in run-up to Iranian New Year

In the run-up to the Iranian New Year on 20 March, when prisoners might have expected to be released, two journalists – Henghameh Shahidi and Ehssan Mazndarani – have been arrested and others have been threatened with arrest by the courts, the Revolutionary Guards and the ministry of intelligence.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its condemnation of the Iranian regime’s continuing harassment of journalists.

Henghameh Shahidi, who edits the blog Paineveste, was arrested at the home of her sister in the northeastern city of Mashhad on the orders of the office of the Tehran prosecutor for culture and media. In a letter published after her arrest, she said she had been the target of “threats from government organs.”

“I will go on hunger strike until my release or my death,” the letter added. Mostafa Turk Hamadani, a lawyer who is waiting to see if he will be allowed to defend her, said she had been transferred to Tehran and had been refused the right to receive visits. She is ill and has undergone two heart operations in the past, her mother, Nahid Kermanshahi, said.

Shahidi was originally arrested in June 2009 and was released in November of the same year on the orders of a Tehran revolutionary court on bail of 9 million toman (8,000 euros). After a ministry of intelligence summons in February 2010, a Tehran court sentenced her on appeal to six years in prison and a fine of 50,000 toman, but she was released on medical grounds in October 2010.

Violence was used by the Revolutionary Guards intelligence operatives who arrested Ehssan Mazandarani, the editor of the newspaper Farhikhteghan, yesterday, claiming that he should not have been released a month ago and that he had not fully served his sentence.

Mazandarani was freed on 9 February as a result of a decision that he had completed his two-year sentence. One of the victims of a wave of arrests in November 2015, he was originally given a seven-year jail sentence that was reduced to two years on appeal.

While in prison, he was hospitalized several times with heart and chest problems after a three-week hunger strike. His family says that, following yesterday’s arrest, he was taken to Tehran’s Evin prison, where he immediately began another hunger strike.

Issa Saharkhiz, a well-known independent journalist who was one of the other victims of the November 2015 wave of arrests, was manhandled by prison guards during a search of his personal effects on 11 March. He has been held in hospital since March 2016 on medical grounds. His family members say they are concerned about his health.

RSF is also worried about Tahereh Riahi, the Borna news agency’s social affairs editor, who was arrested on 27 December. Still in solitary confinement in Section 209 of Evin prison and still denied the right to visits, she is said to be in very poor physical and psychological health.

Ranked 169th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Iran is one of the world’s five biggest prisons for media personnel, with a total of 30 journalists and citizen journalists detained.

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Updated on 16.03.2017