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One journalist released, four sentenced

(RSF/IFEX) - On 8 October 2007 Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release of journalist Soheil Assefi, who spent more than two months in preventive detention in Tehran's Evin jail, but stressed the poor state of press freedom in Iran where four other journalists have been given jail terms and a daily paper shut down.

Assefi, a contributor to a number of publications and websites, was freed on 6 October after paying bail of 100 million Tumen (approx. 80,000 euros). He had been held in custody at Evin jail since 4 August.

His family had been denied the right to visit him and were very concerned about his health. He is still facing prosecution for "publishing false news likely to disturb public opinion."

"While we welcome the release of Assefi, we call for all charges against him to be dropped," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"He joins a long list of journalists who have recovered their freedom of movement but not the right to express themselves. When freed on bail, they have no choice but to self-censor and to keep a low profile so that the security services will forget about them".

"Moreover, nine other journalists are still imprisoned, some of whom are still awaiting trial," the organisation pointed out.

The first chamber of the Sanandaj court in Kurdistan sentenced Ako Kurdnasab, of the weekly "Karfto", to three years in prison for "espionage" under Article 501 of the Islamic criminal code on 20 September. Intelligence ministry agents arrested him at the paper's headquarters on 21 July and he has since been held in Sanandaj prison with no right to receive visits.

Journalists on the weekly "Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan" (banned since 2004), Ejlal Ghavami, imprisoned in another case since 9 July, and Jahangir Hashami, were given two-year suspended prison sentences and fined 50,000 Tumen (approx. 40 euros) for "publishing false news". The judge at the first chamber of the Sanandaj court initially decided to sentence them to 100 days in prison but revised his judgement.

Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee, of the daily "Sarmayeh", was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and two years probation on 26 September by the 13th chamber of the Tehran revolutionary court for "taking part in an illegal demonstration", "acting against national security" and "publicity against the Islamic Republic".

He was arrested on 22 June 2006, while covering a major women's demonstration in the capital. Handing down his verdict, the judge criticised him for signing several petitions in favour of free expression, including one calling for the release of United States journalist Jill Carroll who had been detained in Iraq in 2006.

A court in Tehran on 15 September confirmed the closure of the reformist daily "Golestan-é-Iran" (Garden of Iran), suspended in 2004 for putting out articles which were "lying and hostile to the Islamic regime" and "offending against decency". The newspaper's editor, Frozan Assafi Nakhei, was handed down a two-year professional ban.

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