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Journalist's sentence reduced from three years to six months; another detained journalist ailing, requires medical treatment

(RSF/IFEX) - On 13 November 2007, an appeal court in Sanandaj, in Iran's Kurdish northwest, reduced journalist Ako Kurdnasab's sentence from three years to six months in prison after it overturned his conviction on a spying charge but upheld his conviction for "trying to overthrow the government by means of journalistic activities."

"We welcome the quashing of Kurdnasab's espionage conviction but the fact remains that a journalist should not be imprisoned for what he writes and we therefore call for the entire conviction to be overturned and for him to be released unconditionally," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Judicial harassment of Iran's independent journalists is linked to the hypersensitive regime's tendency to see them as the accomplices of foreign powers," the press freedom organisation added. "This is especially so in the Kurdish part of the country, where four journalists are currently in prison.

A reporter for the weekly "Karfto", Kurdnasab was arrested by intelligence ministry officials at the newspaper on 21 July and has been held ever since in Sanandaj prison. He has not been allowed any visits since his arrest. The three-year sentence for spying was imposed by a Sanandaj court under article 501 of the Islamic criminal code.

One of the detained Kurdish journalists, Ejlal Ghavami of "Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan" (a weekly closed since 2004), has an eye infection and needs treatment, Reporters Without Borders has learned from his lawyer, Nemat Ahamadi. "He is exposed to dust and pollution in his cell," Ahamadi said. Ghavami has been held since 9 July, where a Sanandaj court sentenced him to three years in prison for "inciting the population to revolt" and "activities against national security."

More than 160 Iranian journalists have meanwhile signed a statement calling for the release of Tehran-based journalist Emadoldin Baghi, who has been held since 14 October (see IFEX alerts of 24 and 15 October 2007). The signatories are to participate in a demonstration organised by his family and friends, in Tehran, on 15 November.

Iran was ranked 166th out of 169 countries in the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index published last month.

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