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RSF expresses concern about conditions in which journalists and cyber-dissidents are being held

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the conditions in which journalists and cyber-dissidents are being held in Iran and the arbitrary nature of their detention, and calls for their release. The organisation issued its appeal after the parents of a detained American-Iranian journalist, who live in the United States, were able to visit her in Tehran's Evin prison on 6 April 2009.

"It is very good news that Roxana Saberi, who has been imprisoned since January, was finally able to see her parents but we must not forget that nine other journalists are also being detained in Iran in very harsh conditions," Reporters Without Borders said. "Some are not getting the medical treatment they need. Journalist and blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi's recent death in detention reinforces our growing concern about the conditions in which they are being held."

Saberi's parents arrived in Iran from the United States on the eve of the prison visit. The authorities still have not announced what Saberi is charged with but her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, said on 5 April that a revolutionary court judge had been asked to decide whether the case was ready to go to trial or whether further investigation was needed.

Agence France-Presse quoted Saberi's father, Reza Saberi, as saying she was in "good" health and that he had heard that "she will be released soon." He did not elaborate. The news of Saberi's detention was broken by the US public radio station NPR on 1 March after it got a call from her father on 10 February. The Iranian authorities confirmed on 2 March that she was being held in Evin prison but they have never specified the charges against her.

Seven other journalists and two cyber-dissidents are currently held in Iran, which is the Middle East's biggest prison for media personnel.

They include Mohammad Sadegh Kabodvand, who has been held in Evin prison since July 2007. Kabodvand is ill but, on the grounds that "he has not served three years of his sentence," he still has not been allowed out of prison to receive treatment. His wife says she is very worried about his health. On 23 October 2008, a Tehran appeal court upheld his 11-year jail sentence for creating a human rights organisation in Kurdistan.

Kabodvand was the winner of the UK Press Gazette's British Press Awards in the "International journalist of the year" category, announced on 31 March. The judges cited work on behalf of human rights.

Mohammad Hassin Falahieh Zadeh, a journalist who worked for the Arabic-language service of state-owned TV station Al-Alam while freelancing for many Arab news media such as the Lebanese daily "Al-Mostaqbal", Abu Dhabi TV and Radio Dubai, was arrested in November 2006 on a spying charge and was sentenced on 29 April 2007 to three years in prison and a fine equivalent to twice all that he ever earned as a journalist.

Held since 28 February in solitary confinement in Evin prison, under the intelligence ministry's control, he suffers from thalassemia, a hereditary condition that causes anemia. He has been held longer than any other journalist currently detained in Iran.

Kurdish journalist and teacher Massoud Kurdpoor was sentenced to a year in prison on 15 October 2008 on a charge of "anti-government propaganda in interviews for foreign and enemy news media." His lawyer, Abbas Jamali, said he was put in solitary confinement and denied any contact with his family. He talked about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Kurdish region in the interviews he gave to foreign radio stations. He was transferred on 23 February from a prison in the Kurdish city of Mahabad to one in Orumieh, the capital of West Azerbaijan province.

Online journalist and cleric Mojtaba Lotfi was arrested on 8 October 2008 in the religious city of Qom for posting a sermon by Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, a well-known opponent of Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, online. The sermon criticised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for saying Iran was "the world's freest country." A special court for the clergy sentenced him on 29 November 2008 to four years in prison and five years of banishment from the city. He has lung problems caused by injuries sustained during the Iran-Iraq war.

Kaveh Javanmard of the weekly "Karfto" was transferred to Sanandaj prison at the end of March after being held for two years in the northern city of Maragheh, far from where his family lives. A Sanandaj court had sentenced him on 17 May 2007 to two years in prison. He was briefly let out of prison in July 2008 to receive treatment for a liver ailment.

Bahman Totonchi, a former Karfto contributor, has been held since 18 November 2008 in Sanandaj prison, where he still has not been formally charged.

Reporters Without Borders is still without any news of blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who has been held in an unknown location since 1 November 2008, his family says. His arrest was confirmed by Alireza Jamshidi, the judicial authority spokesman on 30 December 2008, after it had already been reported in the media.

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