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Two journalists sentenced to suspended jail terms for "publicity" against government, a third released

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the suspended prison sentences that have been passed on journalists Said Matinpour and Yaghoub Salaki Nia in separate cases. Matinpour's jail term was eight years. Nia's was one year. In each case, the sentences were handed down in closed door hearings without their lawyers being present. They both plan to appeal.

At the same time, the organisation welcomes the news that Masoud Rafai Taleghani of the daily "Farhangh Ashati" was released in late May 2008 after being imprisoned arbitrarily for over a month. The grounds for his arrest were never revealed.

"As is customary in Iran, the authorities prosecute and sentence journalists with a complete lack of transparency," Reporters Without Borders said. "The lawyers were not given the details of the charges against their clients. It is also worrying to see that trials involving journalists are being held behind closed doors with increasing frequency."

Matinpour, who reports for "Yarpagh," an Azeri-language weekly based in Tehran, was given an eight-year suspended sentence by a Tehran revolutionary court on 11 June for "maintaining relations with foreigners" and "publicity against the Islamic Republic." He was arrested at his home in the northwestern city of Zanjan on 28 May 2007 and was held in pre-trial detention for nearly eight months until his family was able to pay the exorbitant sum of 500 million toumen (approx. 500,000 euros) demanded as bail.

Nia, a freelancer, got a one-year suspended sentence from the same court for "publicity against the Islamic Republic." He spent 50 days in Tehran's Evin prison until his release on 19 December 2007 on payment of 80 million toumen (approx. 80,000 euros) in bail.

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