Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Iran MPs plan jailed writer visit

BBC News:
Five Iranian MPs say they want to meet the jailed dissident Akbar Ganji, who has been on hunger strike for a month.

Saeed Abutaleb MP said the visit would take place soon as Mr Ganji's health was "a matter of concern". READ MORE

The dissident's wife, who saw him on Monday, told the BBC he has lost 22kg (50lb) and has low blood pressure.

Mr Ganji is a journalist who was jailed after he wrote articles linking senior officials to a string of political assassinations in Iran.

On Tuesday, President George W Bush joined calls from the European Union for the release of Mr Ganji, saying he had been imprisoned only for expressing his views.

Mr Ganji was jailed in 2001 but was granted temporary leave on 29 May for health grounds. He was re-imprisoned two weeks later and has been on hunger strike ever since.

"Ganji began a hunger strike because there has been no response to his demands," Mr Abutaleb said. "The MPs will meet him to hear what he has to say."

Mr Abutaleb added that if he had committed a journalistic offence, he should have been fined rather than jailed.


Mr Ganji's wife, Massoumeh Shafeih, told the BBC that she would stand by her husband and hoped to see him "victorious".

She said he had been asked to write a brief apology to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and renounce two of his pamphlets, but he had refused to do so.

"When he wouldn't renounce his words he was told 'You won't be released ... if this jail term comes to an end a new charge will be brought against you and you will never get out of jail'," Mr Shafeih told the BBC.

A small demonstration in support of the jailed journalist was held on Tuesday outside Tehran University, but protesters were dispersed after less than one hour.

Letter published by London-based Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat on Tuesday in Mr Ganji's name said Ayatollah Khamenei would ultimately be responsible for his death.

"I have become a symbol of justice in the face of tyranny, my emaciated body exposing the contradictions of a government where justice and tyranny have been reversed," the letter says.

The White House on Tuesday said President Bush was "deeply concerned" about Mr Ganji's health and the fact that he had been denied access "to his family, medical treatment and legal representation".