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Two Kurdish journalists sentenced to death

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced deep concern on learning that journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed "Hiva" Botimar were sentenced to death by a revolutionary tribunal in Marivan, in Iran's Kurdish northwestern region, on 16 July 2007.

"These death sentences are outrageous and shameful," the press freedom organisation said. "They show how little Iran is bothered by international humanitarian law. They also show how determined it is to use every possible means to silence the most outspoken journalists and human rights activists."

Reporters Without Borders added: "We appeal to the international community to ask Iran to reverse this decision and to refrain from executing two men who did nothing but exercise their right to inform their fellow citizens. Iran is in the process of becoming one of the world's biggest prisons for journalists."

Hassanpour worked for the magazine "Asou", which has been banned since August 2005 as a result of a decision by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. He wrote about the very sensitive Kurdish issue.

At his trial, which was held behind closed doors, he was found guilty of "activities subverting national security" and "spying." His interviews for foreign news media including Voice of America were cited by the prosecution. According to his family and one of his lawyers, Sirvan Hosmandi, he was transferred to Sanandaj prison on 18 July.

The charges on which Botimar, a contributor to "Asou" and an active member of the environmental NGO Sabzchia, was sentenced to death were not immediately known.

In addition, Reporters without Borders denounces the 21 July arrest of Ako Kurdnasab, a journalist with the weekly magazine "Karfto", by agents of the Information Ministry in Sanandaj, the capital of Iranian Kurdistan. The journalist was taken to the ministry's prison after being interrogated by the fourth chamber of the city court. The charges against him are not known.

Three other Kurdish journalists are currently in prison in Iran. Ejlal Ghavani of "Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan", a weekly that was suspended in 2004, was detained on 9 July of this year after being convicted by a court in Sanandaj of "inciting the population to revolt" and "activities against national security" (see IFEX alert of 12 July 2007 and others).

Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand, "Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan"'s editor and the founder of a human rights organisation, was arrested on 1 July and transferred to Evin prison (see alerts of 18 and 3 July 2007). He has not been officially charged.

Kaveh Javanmard of the weekly "Karfto" is currently serving a two-year prison sentence. He was not allowed access to a lawyer during his trial, which took place behind closed doors (see alerts of 23 May and 11 January 2007).

With a total of eight journalists currently detained, Iran continues to be the Middle East's biggest prison for the press and one of the world's ten most repressive countries as regards freedom of expression in the media. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on the Reporters Without Borders list of the world's 34 worst "press freedom predators." Since he became president in August 2005, the authorities have cracked down hard on journalists. The situation is especially fraught in the Kurdish northwest.

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