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Three journalists transferred to notorious "special wing" of Evin prison; exiled journalist's father arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called for the immediate release of three journalists arrested on 7 and 8 September 2004 in Tehran, and of retired film director Said Motallebi, father of exiled journalist Sina Motallebi.

The organisation condemned the "unjust detention" of Babak Ghafori Azar, Shahram Rafihzadeh and Hanif Mazroi and expressed serious concern for their welfare.

"We are extremely worried about [the fate of the journalists] based on their families' suspicions of ill-treatment, and because they are being held in the 'special wing' of Evin prison, notorious for its use of torture."

"The arrest of Said Motallebi, 62, aimed at silencing his son, Sina, an Iranian journalist who has sought exile in Europe, is a despicable act", RSF said. "We call on the Iranian judicial authorities to end this shameful blackmail."

Three journalists detained in Evin prison

Three weeks after the authorities shut down the news site Rouydad ("Events", http://www.rouydad.info), journalists Azar, Rafihzadeh and Mazroi were arrested by Edareh Amaken, Tehran's "morality" police squad closely tied to Tehran Prosecutor Said Mortazavi. The Evin prison where they are being held is notorious for its use of torture, which took the life of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi on 10 July 2003.

Fears for the welfare of the three journalists have been heightened by the fact they are being held in a "special wing" of the prison, under the direct orders of Prosecutor Mortazavi. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion Ambeyi Ligabo and Louis Joinet, chair of the UN Human Rights Commission's Working group on Arbitrary Detention, were refused access to the wing during their 2003 and 2004 visits. Only Intelligence Service interrogators under the orders of Mortazavi are admitted to the area and even the prison's warden is not allowed access to the wing.

Detention of journalist Sina Motallebi's father

Said Motallebi, father of journalist Sina Motallebi, was arrested in Tehran on 8 September. Sina Motallebi is living in exile in the Netherlands, where he runs the news website http://www.rooznegar.com.

Said Motallebi was previously summoned by the judiciary following an 8 June RSF press conference in Paris. During the conference and in several articles published later, Sina Motallebi spoke out about the torture and ill-treatment that he had suffered while in solitary confinement in Iran from 20 April to 12 May 2003.

The Iranian authorities have threatened to make Said Motallebi "another Pourzand" (a reference to 75-year old journalist Siamak Pourzand, who has been imprisoned since 30 March 2003 and whose health has badly deteriorated in prison) if his son does not keep silent. Said Motallebi is in poor health and suffers from heart problems.

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