(RSF/IFEX) - On 29 April 2002, RSF protested the sentencing of pro-reform journalist Ahmad Zeid-Abadi to 23 months in prison and a five-year ban on "all public and social activity, including journalism". The organisation called on the head of the Iranian legal system, Ayatollah Shahrudi, to annul the "very harsh" punishment. "The conservatives who control the judiciary are taking advantage of the United Nations Human Rights Commission's recent failure to condemn Iran to resume their attacks on journalists and the media," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard.
Despite the release of eight journalists since the beginning of 2002, 12 others remain imprisoned in Iran. At least five more are currently free on bail, awaiting the result of their respective trials.
RSF has learned that on 17 April, Judge Said Mortazavi, head of the Tehran court, sentenced Zeid-Abadi for "propaganda against the Islamic regime and its institutions". The journalist works for the pro-reform daily newspaper "Hamchahri" and the monthly "Iran-e-Farda". The court said he had taken "provocative positions that threatened national security." In recent articles, he had defended Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and condemned suicide bombings, a line which differs from the Iranian government's position. Zeid-Abadi plans to appeal his sentence.
Zeid-Abadi was arrested at his home on 7 August 2000 by a dozen plainclothes officials because of what they termed "his refusal to appear before a court." He was released on bail on 8 March 2001.
In addition, Said Afsar, a journalist with the government daily "Iran", went on trial before the Tehran Court on 28 April for "insulting Islam" in three articles he wrote about the religion. During the trial, he said that as a Muslim, he would never insult Islam. The verdict will be announced at a later date.