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SEVEN JOURNALISTS SENTENCED TO 52 YEARS IN PRISON

While the Cuban government's recent crackdown on free expression has drawn considerable coverage from international media, scant attention is being paid to Iran where seven journalists were sentenced on 10 May to prison terms totaling 52 years.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) have voiced concerns over the sentencing of Ezatollah Sahabi, Taghi Rahmani, Hoda Saber, Reza Alijani, Saide Madani, Ali-Reza Redjaï and Morteza Khazemian following a secret trial in Tehran. Prison sentences ranged from four years to 13 years, with Sahabi receiving the heaviest sentence. The journalists were members of the banned National Religious Movement, a liberal, nationalist Islamic group, RSF says.

WAN has written a letter to the head of Iran's judiciary calling for the immediate release of the journalists.

All of them have been arrested on previous occasions. Rahmani, Madani, Redjaï and Khazemian were detained in March 2001 after attending a meeting hosted by Mohammad Bastehnaghar, a progressive opposition figure, notes RSF. They spent periods of varying length in jail after the Tehran Revolutionary Court accused them of "seeking to promote a conspiracy against the Islamic regime."

Alijani, winner of the RSF-France Foundation prize in 2001, was arrested in February 2001 and released on bail in December 2001, while Saber endured more than 13 months in prison from January 2001 to March 2002, RSF says. Sahabi had been out of jail since March 2002 after serving a reduced sentenced on charges of "anti-regime propaganda."

Iran is the leading jailer of journalists in the Middle East, with 10 journalists behind bars at the end of 2002, notes RSF. That figure looks set to jump to 17 with the recent sentencing of the seven journalists. For more information on their case, see


READ:


RSF's recently released annual report on free expression in Iran: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=6688


Read these reports on Iran by other IFEX members:

- Committee to Protect Journalists: http://www.cpj.org/attacks02/mideast02/iran.html
- Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/un/chr59/iran.htm
- International Press Institute: http://www.freemedia.at/wpfr/Mena/iran.htm
- Freedom House: http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/freeworld/2002/countryratings/iran.htm

ACT:


Write a letter to Iranian authorities: http://www.wan-press.info/pages/article.php3?id_article=974


Other Links:

- BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3019695.stm
- IranMania: http://www.iranmania.com/news/
- Middle East Report: http://www.merip.org/mero/mero121102.html

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