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Eleven jailed journalists start new year in harsh prison conditions

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has expressed indignation over the prison conditions of 11 Iranian journalists. Most of the detained are ill and in a very weakened state, both physically and psychologically. The organisation renewed its objections to the journalists' often-arbitrary detention and has called for their release.

"It is completely unacceptable for journalists like Siamak Pourzand - an ill, 74-year-old man - to still be held in solitary confinement," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "The same is true of Ali-Reza Jabari, aged 60, who is suffering from heart problems and has even received 253 lashes. The journalists' families are not even allowed to bring warm clothing to the sick prisoners." Ménard noted that RSF remains very concerned about the cases of Taghi Rahmani, Reza Alijani and Hoda Saber, whose legal situation remains unclear. The legal period within which they could be held in custody expired long ago.

Status report on the 11 jailed journalists:

- Pourzand, a freelance journalist who worked for several independent newspapers, has been jailed since November 2000. He is serving an eight-year sentence. The 74-year-old journalist has been under heavy psychological pressure and was tortured during his interrogation. In an open letter, his wife said, "He is being held in solitary confinement in the basement of Evin jail. According to a diagnosis given on 30 July 2003 at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Hospital, he is suffering from an arthritic neck and worrying disc problems that will require an operation. He is unable to walk and attend to his daily needs."

- Jabari, a journalist with the monthly "Adineh", has been jailed since 17 March 2003. He was sentenced to three years in prison and 253 lashes. Jabari, who is over 60 years old, has heart problems. Held in a cell with common-law prisoners, he has been treated even more severely since a letter detailing his prison conditions was published on an Internet site. The prison authorities refuse to allow his wife to bring him warm clothing.

- Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari, a journalist for "Iran-e-Farda", has been jailed since 5 August 2000. He is serving a seven-year sentence. Eshkevari, who is a diabetic, is insulin-dependent and suffers from bleeding in his eyes, was granted a temporary release to seek medical treatment, but his doctors say he urgently needs intensive care outside of prison.

- Akbar Ganji, a journalist with the daily "Sobh-e-Emouz", has been jailed since 22 April 2000. He is serving a six-year sentence. Suffering from an acute throat disorder, he was allowed a 10-day pass for treatment, but doctors believe he urgently needs an operation.

- Iraj Jamshidi, editor-in-chief of the financial daily "Asia", has been held in detention since 6 July 2003 and has still not been tried. On the eve of a visit from United Nations Special Rapporteur Ambeyi Ligabo, he was transferred from his isolation cell to a dormitory. He has since been returned to the basement of Evin jail. He was allowed only one visit, coinciding with Ligabo's trip.

- Ali-Reza Ahmadi, also of "Asia", was jailed on 29 July 2003 and is still remanded in custody.

- Hossein Ghazian, a journalist with the daily "Norouz", has been jailed since 31 October 2002. He is serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence.

- Abbas Abdi, of the daily "Salam", has been imprisoned since 4 November 2002. He is also serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence.

- Rahmani, of "Omid-e-Zangan", has been imprisoned since 14 June 2003 for no official reason. He has been held in solitary confinement for nearly two months and has not been allowed to receive any visitors since 6 December. Rahmani was reportedly sentenced on appeal to 13 years in jail in another case.

- Alijani, editor-in-chief of "Iran-e-Farda" and a recipient of the RSF-Fondation de France press freedom prize, has been imprisoned since 14 June 2003 for no official reason. He has been held in solitary confinement for nearly two months and has not been allowed any visitors since 6 December. He was reportedly sentenced on appeal to six years in prison in another case.

- Saber, managing editor of "Iran-e-Farda", has also been held since 14 June 2003. He was reportedly sentenced on appeal to 10 years in prison in another case.

On 6 December 2003, the Association for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights released a statement in Tehran condemning the situation of Iran's jailed journalists. The association was set up in late December by journalist and human rights activist Emadoldin Baghi, who himself was given a one-year suspended jail sentence on 4 December.

A petition addressed to the Iranian people, signed by more than 1,000 university students and professors, was published on 5 January 2004. It called for the release of Rahmani, Alijani and Saber. The petition noted that the three journalists were "illegally and unfairly arrested".

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