Sign up for weekly updates

Kurdish journalist sentenced to 11 years in prison; Tehran daily closed for criticising President Ahmadinejad

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the 11-year prison sentence imposed on Kurdish journalist Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand on 22 June 2008 for "activity against national security." The organisation has also learned that the daily "Tehran Emrooz" was closed on 21 June, a few days after running several articles criticising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic record while mayor of Tehran.

"The authorities have no scruples about using unfair trials to convict journalists on trumped-up charges," Reporters Without Borders said. "No consideration was given to Kabovand's poor health, either. This especially severe sentence is a message to all those who do not kowtow to the regime, especially in the Kurdish northwest. The decision to close 'Tehran Emrooz' was taken without referring to any court. President Ahmadinejad uses government commissions to settle his political scores."

The former editor of "Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan", a weekly closed down in 2005, Kabovand received his 11-year sentence from a Tehran revolutionary court for creating a human rights organisation in Iran's Kurdish region. Since his arrest in July 2007, he has been held in Tehran's Evin prison, where he spent the first five months in solitary confinement.

Despite his health problems, Kabovand was unable to taken advantage of a provisional release order prior to his trial because his family was unable to raise the exorbitant bail that was demanded - 150 million toumen (approx. 145,000 euros).

Kabovand suffered an acute dizzy spell in his cell on 19 May and his wife, who visited him the day before his sentence was pronounced, told Reporters Without Borders he continues to have periods of dizziness and headaches against which the medicine he is being given in prison is having no effect. "This verdict shows how the authorities persecute journalists and human rights activists in Iran," she said.

Kabovand's lawyers, Nemat Ahamadi and Mohammad Sifzadeh, protested vehemently against the sentence, describing it as "political." They also condemned the court's decision to hold the trial behind closed doors.

"Tehran Emrooz" is owned by current Tehran mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, who plans to run against Ahmadinejad in next year's presidential election. It was closed by the Commission for Press Authorisation and Surveillance, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, after publishing a detailed report mocking Ahmadinejad's economic record while mayor from 2003 to 2005.

The newspaper's printer was summoned by a court the day after the article came out to answer to charges of "printing images and editorial content insulting to the president" and "spreading lies with the aim of upsetting public opinion." The newspaper was forced to publish an official apology, acknowledging that the criticism had not been "moderate."

Latest Tweet:

Letter: International community must pressure Azerbaijan to ensure the life, health and rights of Mehman Huseynov…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.