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Authorities responsible for Siamak Pourzand's death

Siamak Pourzand
Siamak Pourzand

PEN American Center

The Iranian authorities are responsible for Iranian journalist Siamak Pourzand's suicide, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Detained and under house arrest for the past 10 years, banned from leaving the country and separated from his family, Pourzand, 80, committed suicide on 29 April in Tehran, report RSF and PEN American Center.

"We hold the Iranian authorities responsible for this gesture of despair," said RSF. "Despite several appeals to the authorities by his family and various human rights organisations, including RSF, not once did either President Mohammad Khatami or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the heads of judicial system… intercede on his behalf."

Pourzand began his long career in 1952 with the newspaper "Bakhtar Emroz", and worked at a host of independent newspapers before taking over the management of Tehran's artistic and cultural centre. He was a cultural commentator for several reformist newspapers after the reformist Mohammed Khatami became president in 1997.

In November 2001, Pourzand was abducted by security agents and held incommunicado. Held for months in solitary confinement, he was tortured in an attempt to force him into a televised confession.

He was finally tried and sentenced in May 2002 to 11 years in prison on charges of "spying and undermining state security" and "links with monarchists and counter-revolutionaries."

With his health failing, he was eventually released on medical parole. Pourzand spent his last few years under house arrest, with frequent hospital visits and constantly under threat from information ministry interrogators. Because he was an eyewitness to crimes committed by the authorities in Iran's prisons, he was banned from leaving the country, says RSF.

Pourzand was an Honorary Member of PEN American Center, PEN Canada, and the Norwegian PEN Center.

His suicide is "devastating evidence of the human toll of years of inhuman repression" and "a tragedy that should stir reflection and action both inside and outside Iran," said PEN American Center.

Many journalists are currently in prison or have been granted a "conditional release" on payment of a large amount of bail. Those who are in poor health are denied adequate treatment.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Iran is tied with China as the world's worst jailers of the press - with 34 imprisoned journalists apiece - together constituting nearly half of the worldwide total.

RSF is calling for the Special Rapporteur on Iran to be sent to the country urgently, in accordance with the resolution voted by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 24 March.

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