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Nightmare ends for two journalists; newspaper banned

(RSF/IFEX) - The nightmare is over for two journalists. Ako Kurdnasab of the weekly "Karfto" was released from Sanandaj prison in Kurdistan province on 17 January 2008 on completing his sentence. Franco-Iranian documentary filmmaker Mehrnoushe Solouki flew back to France two days later after the lifting of a 10-month-old ban on her leaving the country.

Meanwhile, the press department of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned the newspaper "Arya" on 19 January 2008 for "failing to publish regularly." Suspended in April 2000 during a wave of closures of pro-reform newspapers, "Arya" had received permission from a Tehran court in 2006 to resume publishing. A new team of journalists had been preparing to bring out a new issue.

In other recent developments, two other journalists, Ejlal Ghavami and Emadoldin Baghi, were allowed to leave prison temporarily to receive medical treatment, while Said Matinpour of the weekly "Yarpagh" was transferred back to Tehran, more than 300 km from his family in the northwestern city of Zanjan.

"Kurdnasab spent six months in prison, while Solouki was kept in Iran for more than 10 months against her will after being imprisoned for a month," Reporters Without Borders said. "We are glad the nightmare has ended for them. But Ghavami and Baghi will have to return to their cells at the end of their medical leave."

Kurdnasab was freed on 17 January after being held for 180 days in Sanandaj. He was arrested on 21 July 2007 at "Karfto"'s headquarters by intelligence ministry officials. His initial sentence of three years in prison for "trying to overthrow the government by means of journalistic activities" was reduced to six months on appeal.

Solouki flew back to Paris on 19 January after the bail guarantee on her parents' house was lifted. But she is still charged with "trying to make a propaganda film" for preparing a documentary on the events that followed the 1988 ceasefire between Iran and Iraq. She has not been given back the footage she shot, which was confiscated after her arrest in February 2007.

On 18 January 2008, Baghi was allowed out of Evin prison, where he has been held for three months. When he was briefly hospitalised in December 2007 with severe heart problems, his family had submitted a request for temporary medical leave to the head of the judicial system, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.

Ghavami, a contributor to the weekly "Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan", obtained a two-week extension to the medical leave he was originally granted on 26 December to seek treatment for an eye infection exacerbated by the lack of hygiene in his cell in Sanandaj prison, where he is serving his sentence.

Matinpour was transferred to Evin prison for the second time on 4 December, his wife said. Arrested on 28 May 2007 at his home in Zanjan, he was initially placed in detention in the city. He was transferred to Evin in July, but was moved back to Zanjan in September. His wife said he is charged with "activity against national security." The authorities have said he can be released on bail of 500 million toumen (approx. 500,000 euros), but the family is unable to raise this sum.

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