Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Reporters Without Borders goes on hunger strike in solidarity with Roxana Saberi


Iran 28.04.2009

Reporters Without Borders members began a hunger strike today in support of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on a charge of spying for the United States.
Saberi has herself been on hunger strike since 21 April and, according to her father, Reza Saberi, who visited her in Tehran’s Evin prison yesterday, she is “determined and ready to go all the way.” He said she appeared “much weaker” as a result of going without food for a week.
“Roxana has been significantly weakened by these seven days of hunger strike and we are very concerned for her health,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are therefore symbolically taking over the hunger strike in a gesture of solidarity, so that she no longer has to go on.
Reporters Without Borders activists began their hunger strike at 11 a.m. today in Paris.”
Members of Reporters Without Borders have been stationed outside the Iran Air office at 63, Avenue des Champs Elysées in Paris since 11 a.m. today.
Roxana Saberi needs to know she is not alone, and that she can now take a rest. We will not abandon her.”
Seven journalists and two bloggers are currently imprisoned in Iran, which was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Timeline of Saberi case

31 January: Roxana Saberi is arrested.

1 March: The US public radio network NPR breaks the news of her arrest (after being alerted by her father on 10 February).

2 March: Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi says Saberi was working “illegally” in Iran.

3 March: Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi says she has been “arrested on the order of the Tehran revolutionary court and is being held in Evin prison.”

9 April: Saberi is charged with spying by deputy prosecutor Hassan Zare Dehnavi. This charge is often used by the Iranian authorities to arrest journalists and tighten the muzzle on freedom of expression.

13 April: Saberi is tried in a closed-door hearing on a charge of spying for the United States.

18 April: Saberi is sentenced to eight years in prison.

20 April: Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi announces that she will join the Saberi defence team.

21 April: Saberi begins her hunger strike.

25 April: Her lawyer file an appeal against her conviction.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Concern over Death of Prisoners


A Conversation with Shirin Ebadi -


Rooz: What is the status of the Center’s work today?

Shirin Ebadi (Ebadi): The offices of the Center were sealed shut by government authorities last year but we have repeatedly announced that the work of the Center continues as usual. Two weeks after the closure, we published our regular report on human rights violations in Iran. The Center’s annual human rights report for the year 1387 (2008) too will be published in the next ten days. Through the latter, we list the violations of human rights in Iran to the Iranian people. And like our other reports, this one too is open and will be provided to all the media.
In addition to the report, the Committee to Oversee Free, Fair and Open Elections which is an initiative of the Center, continues its work as well and its reports attest to its outstanding work. The other activities of the Center such as human rights education, and the pro bono defense of political-ideological suspects continue as well. Among the legal suits that the Center was privileged to represent is that of Omidreza Mirsayafi, who unfortunately died because of unknown circumstances a few days after he was sent to prison. The family members of the deceased have protested this issue and the Center represents them in the case.

Rooz: Conflicting reports have been published about Mirsayafi’s health. Did he have any particular illness?

Ebadi: Mirsayafi family members state that they spoke with the prisoner in the morning of March 18th - the say day that he was announced dead - and his health and morale seemed perfectly fine. Since he had no record of any physical or mental illness, it is really not clear what happened between the morning hours and about 3 or 4pm when he was said to have died. We are investigating this case and shall inform the public of our findings. His relatives who went to pick up Omidreza’s body say that they found blood in his ear.

Rooz: What does that mean?

Ebadi: This is something for a physician to conclude. I shall be able to make a definitive statement after concluding our legal investigation. But normally when someone dies of overdose, he does not get blood in his ear. It is claimed that Omidreza took an overdose of some medication which caused his death. But this sounds very strange considering the blood that was observed in his ear by his family members.

Rooz: What is your next step in this case?

Ebadi: Attorneys of the Center who are in charge of the case await the medical report from the coroner’s office. But on a larger point, the suspicious death of Omidreza Mirsayafi has caused deep concern in Iran’s human rights community because the number of such deaths has been on a gradual rise.

Rooz: In your opinion, are these deaths normal?

Ebadi: It has been established that some of these deaths are homicide, not normal. One example is the death of (Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist) Zahra Kazemi which has been established to have been criminal even though the judiciary announced at the last minute that it could not identify the murderer. There are other suspicious cases under investigation such as the death of Dr Zahra Bani Yaghoob which despite repeated visits by me and other attorneys have not produced any results as well. In addition, the judge under whose jurisdiction the case resides refrains from even handing over the victims’ clothes to her family members. The normal practice is that when the body of a person is handed over to the coroner’s office, his clothes and other belongings are surrendered as well. In this particular case the judge claims that there are no clothes to be handed over. In another case involving a Kurdish student named Lotfollahi who also died in prison under suspicious circumstances soon after his arrest, his body was buried without any notice to anybody, including his family members. Only after burial did the authorities inform the members of his family that their son had been buried in a specific cemetery. Such cases require greater investigation. In addition, there are unlawful actions that take place in prisons which must be prevented while the lives of prisoners must be protected according to the law. But these are not taking place. No matter what the circumstances are, such cases must be fully investigated and the responsibility lies with the heads of the judiciary branch of government. One should note that the head of a prison facility is responsible for the life of all prisoners under his jurisdiction. So while a prisoner must leave the prison intact, we see deaths taking place in prisons indicating irresponsibility on behalf of the authorities.

Rooz: What is the legal status of the Center today? Has your complaint against those who have seal-shut it produced any results?

Ebadi: The offices of the Center were sealed-shut on December 20, 2008 by law enforcement agents who claimed to have received such instructions from Tehran’s prosecutor by phone. No such order has been provided to us. We approached the investigator of the case and he too did not produce any such warrant. This shows that those who ordered the closure know that they have abused their authority and committed an unlawful act which is why they are refraining from providing the documents to others, including the managers of the Center. They are in fact violators according to law and we have filed a suit against the official who has ordered the closure, the security deputy of the Revolutionary court under whom the investigator works, and the Tehran prosecutor. We hope that by fairly investigating this case and implementing justice, the judiciary will show that it is truly independent and is after justice.

Rooz: None of the candidates for the presidential election of June 2009 have expressed a concern in the freedom of associations and the improvement of human rights. What is your take on this?

Ebadi: If the candidates have not publicly expressed their views on human rights, then this is very disappointing. But there is still a long way till the actual elections and so their programs may not be finalized yet. But in any case, any person who aspires to get into the Majlis or become the next President in Iran must realize that he will get more votes if he honestly shows his commitment to fulfill the wishes of the people which includes a better life and respect for his dignity, which have been outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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Monday, April 13, 2009


RSF: Roxana Saberi accused of spying, a charge often brought against independent journalists


10 April 2009Roxana Saberi accused of spying, a charge often brought against independent journalists

Reporters Without Borders is very worried by the charge of spying brought against American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi yesterday by deputy prosecutor Hassan Zare Dehnavi (better known as Hassan Haddad), who said that “Saberi has admitted the charges against her.”

“The Iranian authorities use and abuse this charge to arrest journalists and tighten the muzzle on free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said, reiterating its call for Saberi’s release.

Saberi’s arrest was revealed by National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States on 1 March as a result of a call it received from her father on 10 February. The day after the NPR report, the Iranian authorities confirmed she was being held in Tehran’s Evin prison. Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said she had been working “illegally” in Iran. Judicial authority spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said on 3 March that she had been “arrested on the order of the Tehran revolutionary court and is now in detention in Evin prison.”

Born and brought up in the United States, Saberi has lived for the past six years in Iran, where worked as a stringer for NPR from 2002 to 2006. She also worked for the BBC and Fox News. Her father, Reza Saberi, told Reporters Without Borders that she had not worked for the media since 2006. She did not have access to news and information as she did not have press accreditation.

“Her writings were just personal notes and comments about cultural and literary subjects with a view to writing a book about Iran,” he said, adding that “she had been concentrating since 2006 on studying Farsi and Iranian culture at a Tehran university.”

Ayatollah Khamenei ordered a crackdown on independent newspapers and journalists in 2000 for “collaborating and for being the domestic centre of enemy activity.” Most of the journalists arrested and jailed in Iran are charged with spying. Among the journalists currently held on this charge are Adnan Hassanpour, Mohammad Hassin Falahieh Zadeh and Mohammad Sadegh Kabodvand.

Journalist arrested in the past on this charge include Siamak Pourzand (in 2000), Hossein Ghazian (in 2004), Parnaz Azima (in 2006), Mehrnoushe Solouki (in 2007) and Yosef Azizi Banitrof (in 2008). All were convicted on spying charges brought by Dehnavi and his boss, Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi. As a result of physical and psychological pressure, most of them confessed to the charges.

Dehnavi, who continues to call himself Hassan Haddad, was one of the torturers in Evin prison in the 1980s. While a judge at the Tehran revolutionary court’s 26th chamber from 2000 to 2005, he sentenced several journalists to long prison terms. He has been Mortazavi’s right-hand man since 2006. It was Mortazavi who was chiefly responsible for Canadian-Iranian press photographer Zahra Kazemi’s death in detention in July 2003.

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