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Supreme Court upholds death sentence for Kurdish journalist; decision should be "taken very seriously," says RSF

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the death sentence for Kurdish-Iranian journalist Adnan Hassanpour for "spying." The ruling was issued on 22 October 2007, but was not revealed until this week.

The court quashed the conviction of another journalist convicted in the same case, Abdolvahed "Hiva" Botimar, on the grounds of procedural irregularity. Botimar had also been under sentence of death.

"We have been waiting for more than six months for the Supreme Court to decide whether to reopen the case against Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi's alleged murderers, but it took the court only a few weeks to uphold Hassanpour's death sentence, so the judicial system clearly continues to have a pro-government bias," Reporters Without Borders said.

"We appeal to the international community to take every possible action to get this journalist released," the press freedom organisation added. "This sentence should be taken very seriously as Iran has already executed more than 300 people since the start of the year."

Saleh Nikbakht, one of the lawyers representing the two journalists, was notified on 5 November of the court's decision although he was not given the details of the ruling. He said Hassanpour had been found guilty of "espionage" because he had allegedly "revealed the location of military sites and established contacts with the US foreign affairs ministry."

He added that the court overturned Botimar's conviction on the grounds of a "procedural irregularity," and sent his case back to the same revolutionary court in Marivan (in the Kurdish northwest of Iran) that convicted him and Hassanpour on 16 July on charges of spying, "subversive activity against national security" and "separatist propaganda."

Nikbakht told Reporters Without Borders: "This sentence is not only contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international conventions ratified by Iran, but is also contrary to Islamic law and the laws of the Islamic Republic."

Hassanpour, 27, and Botimar, 29, used to work for the weekly "Asou", covering the sensitive Kurdish issue, until the newspaper was banned by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in August 2005. Hassanpour also worked for foreign news media including Voice of America and Radio Farda.

An ardent advocate of Kurdish cultural rights, Hassanpour was arrested outside his home on 25 January and was taken to Mahabad, where he was not allowed to receive visits from his family or his lawyer. Botimar, an active member of the environmental NGO Sabzchia, was arrested on 25 December.

For the past several months, Hassanpour and Botimar have been held in Sanandaj prison, where their lawyers have not been allowed to meet with them in private in order to inform them of the Supreme Court's decision.

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