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After six years in prison, Iranian journalist banished to remote city of Gonabad

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 22 May 2015.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the way the Iranian authorities are continuing to persecute the well-known journalist Ahmad Zeydabadi, banishing him to the northeastern city of Gonabad after he was released from prison yesterday on completing a six-year jail sentence.

Aged 50 and the father of three children, Zeydabadi was arrested on 14 June 2009, two days after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection. A victim of one of the Stalinist-style show trials in Tehran in August 2009, he was sentenced the following November to six years in prison followed by five years of internal exile in Gonabad and a ban on political and journalistic activities.

He was transferred directly to Gonabad on being released yesterday.

“Yet again, we condemn the iniquity of the Iranian judicial system and its attacks on freedom of information,” said Reza Moini, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Iran/Afghanistan desk.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the world's most oppressive countries. It does not limit itself to arbitrary arrests and sentences, but also imposes 'complementary sentences' on its citizens with the aim of silencing them forever. Such sentences violate articles 12 and 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.”

Moini added: “Zeydabadi should be able to live with his family and should be free to work.”

Zeydabadi has a long history of persecution. He was repeatedly the target of summonses and arrests in 2000, 2003 and 2007. He was even jailed for writing an open letter to Ayatollah Khamenei entitled “Why cannot we criticize the Supreme Leader's actions?”

As a result of this letter, he was placed in solitary confinement in Section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison and subjected to a great deal or pressure by intelligence ministry interrogators, who tried in vain to extract a confession and pubic apology to the Supreme Leader.

An emblematic journalist, Zeydabadi worked for many newspapers including Etéla'at in 1998 and Hamshahri until 2002. He received the Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) in 2009 and the UNESCO / Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2011.

Iran is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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