PARIS, 13 July (IPS) As the case of one of Iran’s prominent journalists hits an international dimension, more voices inside and outside the country are calling for his unconditional release from jail.
In a press conference organized in London, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace laureate and lawyer of Mr. Akbar Ganji called on the world media to intervene in favour of one of their colleagues, observing that Iran’s Public Prosecutor “refuse to grant the journalist some of the advantages and rights reserved to even thieves and killers or common law detainees”.
Now that the life of Mr. Ganji is seriously in danger, I appeal to you to do whatever you can to save one of your colleagues.
She was referring to Mr. Sa’id Mortazavi, better known in Iran and outside as the “Butcher of the press” for having ordered the closure of more than 120 Iranian independent and pro-reforms publications and jailing or silencing a dozen of leading Iranian journalists on orders from the regime’s orthodox leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.
Imprisoned on April 2000 after taking part, along 17 other Iranian journalists, intellectuals, lawyers, writers and even a cleric in a conference organized in Berlin by the Heinrich Boll Institute, an event denounced by Tehran as against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Ganji was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for activities against the security of the State and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.
After a short period of leave for medical treatment that coincided with the last presidential elections in Iran, Mr. Ganji returned to prison and started a hunger strike that he says will not end until he is freed unconditionally.
Expressing “serious concern” on Mr. Ganji’s health conditions, Mrs. Ebadi told the international media that she had done “whatever in my possibility”, but the Public Prosecutor does not want Mr. Ganji out of prison despite the fact that prison’s doctors have said he needs special treatments.
“Now that the life of Mr. Ganji is seriously in danger, I appeal to you to do whatever you can to save one of your colleagues, denied of the basic rights, one of your colleague that is in jail for six years because of his ideas”, Mrs. Ebadi pleaded.
On Tuesday, police and plain clothes security men violently disrupted a meeting of more than 300 prominent Iranians gathered at the front door of Tehran University, among them many scholars, journalists, intellectuals, students and former lawmakers, wounding some of the participants and arresting more than 30 of them, released latter on the night, on the ground that the meeting was not authorized by the authorities.
Earlier, hundreds of prominent Iranian of all categories had, in an open letter to Iranian authorities as well as to world’s leaders, including Mr. Kofi Annan, the General Secretary of the United Nations, had called for the release of Mr. Ganji, but also other political prisoners like Mr. Naser Zarafshan, the lawyer of the victims of the case known as the “Serial Killers”, referring to the savage assassination on late November 1998 of five leading political and intellectual activists at the hands of senior officers from the Intelligence Ministry under the presidency of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Actually, it was Mr. Ganji, then covering for some pro-reform newspapers who revealed the responsibility of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani and his Intelligence Minister, the sinister Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahiyan, now a special advisor the leader on security affairs, for the murder of the dissidents. Hence the authorities’ exceptional harshness with Mr. Ganji.
In the petition, the signatories have reiterated that the Iranian authorities would have to “bear the entire responsibility in case Mr. Ganji’ life is in danger”.
In a letter written from prison some ten days ago, the prisoner had stated openly that he would hold Mr. Khameneh’i “the sole responsible” for his life.
Where else in the world a prisoner has the right to insult sacred values and the leaders of his country.
The European Union and the United States have joined the international community and human rights organization in demanding the release of Mr. Ganji, a demand rejected by the Iranian clerical-led regime, describing the demand as interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.
“On human rights and defence of the prisoners, we have no lesson to receive from the westerners, mostly from the United States and its leader”, Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry said, accusing Washington of torture and savage treatment of prisoners in Iraq and in Guantanamo.
Iran prisons authorities say not only they have no political prisoners, but hunger strike by prisoners is forbidden and by going on hunger strike, Mr. Ganji has not obeyed by the regulations.
As some lawmakers from the Majles’ minority reformist faction have demanded to investigate the case of Mr. Ganji, had line deputies have called on the authorities not to show merci.
“Where else in the world a prisoner has the right to insult sacred values and the leaders of his country, to make propaganda against the sacred Islamic regime of Iran in interviews with foreign radios as does Mr. Ganji?” said Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Taqi Rahbar from the parliament’s cultural affairs committee, “advising” Mr. Ganji to continue his hunger strike until he dies. ENDS GANJI 13705