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One journalist held incommunicado in south, three others get prison sentences in north; Kurdish journalist begins hunger strike

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of Abolfazl Abedini Nasr of the weekly "Bahar Khozestan" by ministry of intelligence officials in the southern city of Ahvaz on 13 November 2007. It is not known where he is being held. In a separate development, three newspaper journalists have been given prison sentences in the north of the country.

"We urge the authorities to provide information about Nasr's situation," the press freedom organisation said. "This journalist has been subjected to frequent harassment in the past for working for foreign news media. We call for his immediate release."

Aged 25, Nasr received a telephone summons to report to the authorities on 13 November. According to his family, ministry of intelligence officials intercepted him as he left his office and took him to an unknown location.

Nasr has been arrested several times in the past two years. He was last arrested in September while preparing a report for Radio Farda about a strike by thousands of workers in the south of the country. Charged with "activities against national security" and "disseminating false information," he was due to be tried before a revolutionary court in Ahvaz on 24 November.

Arash Bahamani, editor of the daily "Gylan Emroz", and two of his reporters, Babak Mehdizadeh and Sied Kohzad Esmaili, were convicted by a court in Rashat, in the northern province of Gylan, on 12 November on various charges including "insulting an imam". Bahamani was sentenced to 16 months in prison. The two reporters received four month sentences. They have decided to appeal.

The three journalists spent several days in custody in February after criticising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policy during a visit he made to the province. "Gylan Emroz" was one of the first Iranian newspapers to reveal the existence of bird flu cases in the country.

In the Kurdish northwest, imprisoned journalist Adnan Hassanpour began a hunger strike on 15 November to protest his death sentence, which was confirmed by the Supreme Court on 22 October. He told his family, which was able to visit him the day before, that he was the "victim of unjust and illegal treatment."

Finally, Reporters Without Borders also calls on the Iranian authorities to withdraw charges of "trying to produce a propaganda film" against French-Iranian journalism student Mehrnoushe Solouki, whose trial before a Tehran revolutionary court is due to begin on 17 November. Arrested on 17 February, she was held for a month before being freed on bail (see IFEX alerts of 22 June and 23 May 2007).

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