Saturday, May 28, 2005

Call to EU FMs and Solana to Put Pressure on Iran in Akbar Ganji Case

Reporters Without Borders:
Reporters Without Borders has called on the 25 EU foreign ministers and on Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, to do their utmost to press the Iranian authorities to respond to the demands of a hunger-striking prisoner. READ MORE

Journalist Akbar Ganji, imprisoned for five years, is currently on an unlimited fast to claim the right to appropriate medical treatment and his general rights as a prisoner.

"The European Union which says it has opened a 'constructive dialogue' with Iran since 1998, has the duty to question the authorities to ensure that a major media figure and human rights activist does not die because of their inactivity," said Reporters Without Borders.

Akbar Ganji, detained unfairly for five years and hostage of the Iranian regime is now ill. Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to give immediate guarantees on the journalist's state of health. "In no case should his life be put at risk, neither on the basis of health nor because of ill-treatment, a commonplace occurrence at Evine Prison as several recent cases showed, including that of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi", the organisation added.

"We also call on the European Commission to put pressure on the authorities to undertake an inspection of Iranian prisons, where a hunger strike has become the sole resort for journalists trying to obtain their rights as prisoners," it said.

Ganji began an "unlimited hunger strike" on 19 May 2005. He called it off on 24 may after negotiations with three prison officials who promised to give way to his demands the following week. But the following day, an assistant of the Tehran prosecutor accused him of lying and warned "the Ganji family not to continue with these lies". The journalist then told his family that he had decided to renew his fast "and this time to the end."

His wife, Masoleh Shafii, told Reporters Without Borders : "He is determined to go through to the end. He is sick and weak. As well as the fast, he has stopped taking his medication and his life is really in danger."

Ganji, who worked on the daily paper Sobh-e-Emrooz, was arrested on 22 April 2000 after appearing before the press court accused of writing that leading figures, including former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, had been involved in the murder of opponents and intellectuals in late 1998. He was also accused of taking part in a conference in Berlin about reform in Iran which the government charged was "anti-Islamic."

He was sentenced on 13 January 2001 to 10 years in prison but the appeal court reduced this to six months on 15 May 2001. However on 15 July 2001, the supreme court quashed the May sentence on technical grounds and imposed a six-year jail sentence.

He is being held in solitary confinement and, unlike other political prisoners, is not allowed to phone his wife, and is rarely allowed to leave the prison, although the law permits this. In the course of his five years in prison, he has been allowed only 40 day-passes, most of them for medical appointments. Hospital doctors have recommended that he be hospitalized for back problems and asthma, which has got worse because of his prison conditions, but the judicial authorities continue to block this. His lawyer, Nobel peace laureate Shirin Edabi, has voiced great concern about his state of health.

Over 15 years ago, Reporters without Borders created its "Sponsorship Programme" and called upon the international media to select and support an imprisoned journalist. More than two hundreds news staffs around the globe are thus sponsoring colleagues by regularly petitioning authorities for their release and by publicising their situations so that their cases will not be forgotten. Currently, Akbar Ganji is sponsored by Le Devoir, Nice-Matin, La Montagne.