Thursday, September 21, 2006

Iran Cracks Down on Dissenters

Mike Shuster - All Things Considered, NPR:
In Iran, journalists, reformers, and student activists feared the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might lead to repressive policies and restrictions. After a year of comparative calm, however, observers say that it now appears that their fears were justified. Iran's government has recently jailed several prominent students and activists -- and at least one has died in prison under mysterious circumstances.

At least two political deaths have occurred in Tehran's notorious Evin prison within the past three months. One was a long-time political prisoner who the authorities said suffered a heart attack during a hunger strike. READ MORE

Another was Akbar Mohammadi, a student activist who has been in and out of prisons for the past six years. He too died during a hunger strike. Mohammadi was buried before his parents could see his body, prompting suspicions that he was tortured or beaten.

As for the crackdown on journalists, the government has just closed Iran's most prominent and popular daily newspaper, Shargh, which means "East" in Farsi. The offending material, according to sources in Iran, was a front-page cartoon depicting President Ahmadinejad as a donkey.

The government also convicted a prominent reform journalist, Issa Saharkhiz, for his critical writing about Iran's Supreme Religious Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Saharkhiz is appealing his case and remains out of prison for the moment.