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Journalist imprisoned on spying charge goes on hunger strike to press for right to appeal; Kurdish journalist sentenced to one year in prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced its concern about the state of health of journalist Mohammad Hassin Falahieh Zadeh who has been on hunger strike since 5 October 2008, taking only sugared water.

The worldwide press freedom organisation joins his family and his lawyer in calling on him to end his fast, in Section 350 of Evin jail, Teheran.

The journalist, who works for the Arabic-language service of Iranian state-run radio and television al-Alam was arrested in November 2006 and was sentenced on 29 April 2007 to three years for "espionage".

He was also fined an amount equivalent to double his income from his journalist work. He also contributed to several Arab media outlets, the Lebanese daily "al-Mostaqbal", Abu Dhabi TV and Dubai radio.

"Mohammad Zadeh is the journalist serving the longest prison term in Iranian jails. Convicted at a trial behind closed doors and without his lawyer and detained with common-law prisoners, the journalist considers he has no other option in the face of the injustice he is suffering", said Reporters Without Borders.

He suffers from thalassemia, a genetic illness that leads to anaemia. The journalist's harsh conditions in jail, linked to his hunger strike, could have a very serious effect on his vital organs. His lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told Reporters Without Borders that his client had started his fast to press for an appeal of his trial. The lawyer has never had access to the journalist's court file.

His wife, Bayan Falahieh Zadh, and their three-year-old son, who live in the southern city of Khorramshahr, more than 1,000 kilometres from the capital, have not been able to visit him since he started his fast. "Every time we speak to him on the phone we urge him not to continue his hunger strike. He says that he will end it when he is allowed to see his lawyer", she told the organisation.

In another case, the Mahabad revolutionary court in Kurdistan on 15 October 2008 sentenced Kurdish journalist Massud Kurdpoor to one year in prison for "publicity against the regime in interviews with foreign and enemy media". His lawyer Abass Jamali said he had been placed in solitary confinement and denied all contact with his family. Kurdpoor, who is a teacher, gave interviews to a number of foreign radio stations - Voice of America, Radio France International, and Deutsche Welle - condemning deteriorating human rights in Kurdistan. He is held in jail in Mahabad, the region's main city.

Nine journalists and one cyber-dissident are currently being held in Iran, the Middle East's largest prison for journalists, Reporters Without Borders said.

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