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Several journalists victim of persistent prosecution by judicial system

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Farshad Gorbanpour, who was arrested on 31 July 2007 along with fellow journalist Masoud Bastani on the orders of Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi. Bastani was freed after several hours (for further information on his previous arrest, see IFEX alerts of 14 Sept and 2 August 2005) but Gorbanpour was transferred to Evin prison. This brings the number of journalists and cyber-dissidents detained in Iran to 11.

Alsoon 31 July, a Tehran revolutionary court sentenced journalist Emadoldin Baghi to three years in prison and passed suspended sentences on his wife, Fatemeh Kamali Ahmad Sarahi, editor of the now-closed monthly "Jameh-e-no", and his daughter (for further information on his previous legal persecution, see IFEX alerts of 17 and 11 May and 8 February 2005, 29 June and 5 March 2004 and 8 December 2003), Maryam Baghi.

"How can critical journalists survive this cold, compliant judicial machinery that hounds them relentlessly in order to force them into exile and thereby silence them?" the press freedom organisation asked. "They have to face wild and baseless charges for which they can be given prison sentences."

Reporters Without Borders added: "Coming just two weeks after the death sentences imposed on two journalists in the northwest, yesterday's developments confirm that the human rights situation in Iran is getting worse by the day. Like members of the feminist and student movements, journalists are being subjected to more and more harassment."

The former editor of "Jomhouriat", a daily newspaper that was closed in July 2004, Baghi received a three-year sentence on 31 July for writing articles defending persons who were sentenced to death in the southern Khozestan region. The charges were "activities against national security" and "publicity in favour of the regime's opponents."

His wife and his daughter were given three-year suspended prison sentences and five years of probation for taking part in a series of human rights workshops in Dubai in 2004. The charges were "meeting and colluding with the aim of disrupting national security."

Aged 45, Baghi and his wife have been subjected to repeated summonses for questioning by intelligence ministry officials. He was released on 6 February 2004 after serving a three-year prison sentence for "attacking national security" that he received in 2000. On leaving prison, he set up an organisation to defend the rights of prisoners of conscience, which is still active. He has been banned from leaving the country since 5 October 2004 (see IFEX alerts of 17 and 11 May and 8 February 2005, 29 June and 5 March 2004 and 8 December 2003).

Bastani and Gorbanpour, the two journalists arrested on 31 July, work for several publications including the online newspaper "Roozonline". Bastani was freed after several hours but was ordered to appear in court in Tehran on 1 August. Gorbanpour was transferred to security section 209 in Tehran's Evin prison.

The charges against Bastani and Gorbanpour were not revealed. Bastani was sentenced in 2003 to six months in prison, 70 lashes and a five-year ban on working as a journalist. He was again imprisoned in 2005 for covering a demonstration for the release of journalist Akbar Ganji (see IFEX alerts of 14 Sept and 2 August 2005).

A third Roozonline contributor, Soheil Assefi, received a summons to appear before a Tehran court on 1 August after prosecutor's office agents searched his home, taking personal documents and the hard disk of this computer.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders launched a petition for the release of journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed "Hiva" Botimar on 1 August after judicial spokesman Alireza Jamshidi on 31 July confirmed that a court in Marivan, in Iran's Kurdish northwest region sentenced the two men to hang for being "mohareb," which means "enemies of God" (see IFEX alerts of 1 August, 23 July, 15 March and 30 January 2007).

To sign the petition, go to:

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