Thursday, March 25, 2010

Iran: Leading journalist detained without charge; health concerns

Iran: Leading journalist detained without charge; health concerns

Published: March 23, 2010

English PEN protests the detention without charge of leading journalist and human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi. Baghi is among over fifty writers and journalists currently detained in Iran, many of whom were arrested in the crackdown following the disputed presidential elections of 12 June 2009.


English PEN is part of a coalition of leading press freedom and free expression groups campaigning for the release of those imprisoned. The "Our Society Will Be a Free Society" campaign - a reference to a pledge made by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on the eve of the 1979 Revolution - is currently gathering signatures for an online petition to be sent to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. To sign the petition, please visit the campaign Web site www.oursocietywillbeafreesociety.org.


According to our information, Emadeddin Baghi, prominent Iranian journalist and human rights activist, was arrested on 28 December 2009 following massive protests in Tehran and other cities to mark the Shi'a religious observance of Ashoura. He was arrested following the broadcast by the BBC Persian Service of a two-year old interview Baghi had conducted with the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, an influential cleric who died in December 2009. The government has sought to clamp down on publicity about Montazeri, who had criticized the conduct of the June presidential election.


Emadeddin Baghi has a long history of political imprisonment and persecution. He was first imprisoned on 29 May 2000 and sentenced to a three-year prison term on charges of 'endangering national security' for his writings about the serial murder of dissident intellectuals in Iran in the late 1990s. He served two years of that sentence, and one year was suspended. He was also handed down a one-year suspended term in 2003 for "endangering national security" and "printing lies" in his book, The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran. His newspaper Joumhouriat was shut down in 2003. In October 2007 he was sentenced to one year in prison for "acting against national security', 'propaganda against the Islamic Republic' and 'divulging state secret information' for his activities as president of the Society for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights, an organisation that he founded in 2003. In December 2007 he suffered a heart attack and three seizures in prison, and remained in poor health without adequate medical care until his release in October 2008. He was a main case of International PEN during his previous detentions.


Baghi is the founder of the Association for the Defence of Prisoner's Rights, which had been compiling information on torture and other abuses of detainees. In the late 1990's he exposed the serial murders of Iranian intellectuals. His books Right to Life and Right to Life II argue for the abolition of the death penalty and have been banned by the authorities. He is author of twenty books, six of which have been banned in Iran, and winner of the Martin Annals Award in 2009 and British Press Awards for International Journalist of the Year 2008. He remains detained incommunicado without charge in Tehran's Evin prison, in solitary confinement and without access to family visits. He is in poor health stemming from his previous imprisonment, and there are fears that he is at risk of ill-treatment and medical neglect in prison. Concerns for his health and well-being are mounting.


Background


Baghi's arrest is part of a major crackdown on dissent which has seen unprecedented restrictions on the media in Iran. There have been widespread arbitrary arrests of journalists and leading reformist figures, in flagrant violation of Iran's commitments to human rights, free expression and legal due process under the Iranian constitution. Following the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential elections announced on 13 June 2009, widespread peaceful protests by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi who dispute the election result have been suppressed by the authorities. In the crackdown which followed, dozens of journalists and writers have been imprisoned, and some have been convicted in unfair trial trials to lengthy sentences on vague anti-state charges. More writers and journalists are currently jailed in Iran than any other country in the world. For more information, please click here and here.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS:

- Protesting the detention of leading Iranian journalist and writer Emadeddin Baghi;
- Expressing serious concerns about Baghi's health, and urging that he is given full access to any necessary medical care, family visits and legal advice;
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Iran in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

APPEALS TO:


Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street - End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran,
Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: info@leader.ir or istiftaa@wilayah.org

Head of the Judiciary
His Excellency
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency

COPIES TO:


President:
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency,
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: Via Foreign Ministry: 98 21 6 674 790
(mark: "Please forward to H.E. President Ahmadinejad")
Email: dr-ahmadinejad@president.ir

If possible please send a copy of your appeal to the diplomatic representative for Iran in your country:

His Excellency Rasoul Movaheddian
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
16 Prince´s Gate
London
SW7 1PT
Fax: 0207 589 4440

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