Monday, October 15, 2007
RSF: Revolutionary court detains journalist who defends prisoners of conscienceReporters Without Borders strongly condemns the arrest yesterday of journalist Emadeddin Baghi on a charge of “propaganda against the government.” Baghi is a leading advocate of the rights of prisoners of conscience in Iran.
“Baghi’s arrest is an example of the strategy of harassment and pressure being used against journalists by the Iranian authorities, who are trying to silence the growing number who are demanding the legitimate right to a free and independent press,” the press freedom organisation said.
Reporters Without Borders added: “We urge all democratic countries to firmly condemn Baghi’s arbitrary arrest and we call for the release of all of Iran’s prisoners of conscience, who are growing in number by the month.”
Baghi was arrested when he responded to a summons to report to a Tehran revolutionary court. The summons listed new charges against him. His lawyer said he is now accused of propaganda against the government and “publishing secret government documents obtained with the help of prisoners held for security violations in special centres.”
This is by no means the first time Baghi has been arrested. He first went to prison in 2000, when he was given a three-year sentence for “attacking national security.” A Tehran revolutionary court sentenced him to another year in prison on 9 November 2004 for writing a book that accused the Iranian authorities of involvement in the murders of intellectuals and journalists in 1998. His newspaper, Joumhouriat, was closed by the government in 2003. An anti-death penalty campaigner, he won a French government human rights prize in 2005.
On 31 July of this year, a Tehran revolutionary court sentenced him to three years in prison for “activities against national security” and “publicity in favour of the regime’s opponents” but he was not immediately made to begin serving the sentence. At the same time, his wife, Fatemeh Kamali Ahmad Sarahi, and his daughter Maryam Baghi, were given three-year suspended prison sentences and five years of probation for taking part in a series of human rights workshops in Dubai in 2004. The charges were “meeting and colluding with the aim of disrupting national security.”
He told Reporters Without Borders on the eve of yesterday’s court appearance: “I am convinced they will not let me walk free from the courtroom. They want to ban my activities, although they are legal, and to silence all the independent voices in this country.” Yesterday, the court initially decided to release Baghi on bail of 50 million toumen (40,000 euros), but then changed its mind. It is not known where he is being held.