Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Iran: US Should Leave Dissident Alone

Yahoo News:
Iran's government said Wednesday that President Bush shouldn't intervene in the case of a jailed Iranian dissident, particularly given allegations of U.S. human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons. READ MORE

Bush called Tuesday for Tehran to release Akbar Ganji, a journalist jailed for writing articles linking government officials to murder. The White House statement came as some 300 Ganji supporters gathered in front of the Tehran University to demand Ganji's release.

"The White House talks about violations of human rights in Iran while the world hates the U.S. violations of human rights in both Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons," said Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, state-run radio reported. He called the Bush statement "interventionist."

Also Wednesday, 33 Iranian political activists asked the United Nations to press for Ganji's release, warning his life was in danger because of his monthlong hunger strike, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

"For the sake of human rights, (we) ask you to intervene directly in Ganji's case and follow it as an urgent human rights issue," the activists said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"It is a pity that people have no choice except to appeal to the international bodies to follow their demands. The government does not tolerate any criticism," Khosrow Seif, one of the letter's signatories, told The Associated Press.

In May, Ganji was temporarily released from prison for medical care, ending a 43-day hunger strike. He returned to jail in June and resumed his strike. Since then, his health has been failing.

Ganji was sentenced to six years jail in 2000 after he reported on the 1998 murders of five dissidents by Intelligence Ministry agents. Ganji was convicted on charges that the articles he wrote violated the law.

The Intelligence Ministry blamed the murders on "rogue agents," but Ganji's articles said the killings were ordered by senior hard-liners in the ruling Islamic establishment.

Iran's hard-line judiciary has closed down more than 100 pro-democracy publications in the past five years, including the papers Ganji wrote for, on vague charges of insulting religious sanctities and top clerics.