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Journalist Emadeddin Baghi released from Evin prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is relieved that Emadeddin Baghi, a journalist and human rights activist with serious health problems, has been released from Tehran's Evin prison. A leading campaigner for the rights of prisoners of conscience, he nonetheless faces possible re-imprisonment in two other cases currently before the courts. His release reduces the number of journalists detained in Iran to nine, six of whom are in Evin.

"This release ends an extremely trying year for Baghi in which he has undergone solitary confinement, arbitrary questioning, judicial persecution and serious health problems compounded by harsh prison conditions," Reporters Without Borders said. "His articles critical of the regime and his commitment to human rights result in his being interrogated by the intelligence services and taken to court in Tehran dozens of times every year."

The press freedom organisation added: "Iran has for years kept its position as the Middle East country that imprisons the most journalists. This year has been no exception and we fear more arrests of independent journalists, especially members of minorities, in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for June of next year."

Baghi was released provisionally on 15 September 2008 for treatment to his back problems. At his doctor's request, his release permit was extended until 5 October, when he learned that he had been granted a definitive release three days before completing his sentence.

The same day, 5 October, Baghi responded to a summons to appear before a Tehran appeal court which is reviewing the three-year sentence he received from a revolutionary tribunal in July 2007 on charges of "activity against national security" and "publicity in favour of government opponents." The hearing was adjourned because of his poor health.

Another Tehran appeal court had quashed this conviction in May 2008 but Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi appealed against this decision, prompting the judicial review. Baghi will meanwhile have to face another prosecution in November in connection with his activities as head of the Organisation for the Defence of Prisoner Rights.

As regards the six journalists still in Evin prison, Reporters Without Borders is particularly concerned about the four members of Iran's Azeri minority who have been in Section 209 - the prison toughest wing - since 10 September. They are Alireza Sarafi, editor of "Dilmaj" (a monthly closed on 23 September 2007), Said Mohamadi, editor of the literary magazine "Yashagh", and reporters Hassain Rashedi and Akabar Azad, who write for the magazine "Varlighe" and the weekly "Yarpagh", one of Iran's leading Azeri newspapers.

The four Azeri journalists were allowed visits for the first time on 13 October. After leaving Evin, their families told Reporters Without Borders that the four were weak, exhausted and had lost a lot of weight.

Mohammed Sadegh Kabodvand, the former editor of "Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan" (a weekly closed down in 2004) and an Evin inmate for the past 16 months, was supposed to receive a visit on 24 September from his two children for the first time since his arrest in July 2007. But the visit was cancelled at the last minute and his two children were summarily removed from the prison visit room before he entered.

Mohammad Hassin Falahieh, the journalist detainee who has been held for the longest time, continues to serve a three-year sentence in Evin's Section 209 security wing. Arrested in November 2006, he was convicted on 29 April 2007 on a charge of "spying."

Three other journalists are being held in Iran's Kurdistan region following their conviction on trumped-up charges. Massoud Kurdpoor has been in Mahabad prison since 7 August 2008 after being convicted by a Mahabad revolutionary court of "publicity against the government in interviews given to foreign and enemy news media."

Adnan Hassanpour is still in Sanandaj prison where he is awaiting a new trial after the Supreme Court in Tehran quashed his death sentence on procedural grounds. Finally, Kaveh Javanmard has been held since 18 December 2006 in Maragheh, where he is serving a two-year sentence that was passed by a Sanandaj court on 17 May 2007. He was let out of prison in July to receive treatment for a liver ailment.

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