13 March 2003
One journalist released, two others sentenced to prison
(RSF/IFEX) - While Alireza Eshraghi has been freed on bail, after 53 days' imprisonment in an individual cell, two other journalists, Narghues Mohammadi and Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, have been sentenced to 12 and 13 months' imprisonment, respectively. Five other film-specialised journalists remain imprisoned.
"Although we welcome the release of Mr Eshraghi, we feel it is unacceptable to demand such a high sum to release him. Not only does the judiciary imprison journalists in a totally arbitrary manner, but, in addition, it causes financial difficulties for their families," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. The organisation has called on Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, the head of Iran's judiciary, to immediately release the nine journalists who remain imprisoned.
On 9 March 2003, "Hayat-é-No" journalist Eshraghi was released on bail of 25 million tomans (approx. US$27,000; 25,000 euros). He was arrested on 12 January, shortly after "Hayat-é-No" was shut down, after the publication of a caricature on 8 January. The contentious drawing featured a white-bearded old man, wearing a long black cloak, sitting on the ground with the thumb of a giant hand pressing down on his head (and the caption "Roosevelt" on the sleeve). This drawing was published in 1937 in an American newspaper to illustrate President Roosevelt's pressure on the United States Supreme Court.
That same day, Mohammadi, a journalist from "Peyam Ajar", was sentenced to one year in prison for granting interviews to media outlets during the imprisonment of her husband, Taghi Rahmani, a journalist from the weekly "Omid-é-Zangan". On 4 November 2002, she had been summoned by the Tehran Revolutionary Court for "disturbing the public peace". The journalist remains free but is apparently the subject of new court proceedings.
On 10 March, Zeid-Abadi, a journalist from the reformist newspaper "Hamchahri" and the monthly "Iran-é-Farda", was sentenced on appeal to 13 months in prison. He was also served a five-year ban on any "public and social activity", including journalism. He got eight months for "propaganda against the regime" and five more for "publishing false news". On 17 April 2002, the Press Court had sentenced Zeid-Abadi to 23 months in prison and a five-year ban on any "public and social activity" for "propaganda against the Islamic regime and its institutions". The court accused him in particular of delivering "provocative speeches threatening national security". "If the convict does not respond to the summons to go to prison, he will be arrested," specified Tehran's deputy state prosecutor, a man named Tashakori.
Between 26 and 28 February, Kambiz Kaheh, a journalist from the film magazines "Cinema-Jahan", "Majaleh Film", "Donyai Tassvir" and "Cinema-é-No", Said Mostaghasi, a journalist from "Haftehnameh Cinema", Mohammad Abdi, editor-in-chief of the monthly "Honar Haftom", and Amir Ezati, of "Mahnameh Film", were arrested at their homes. Film press journalists Sepideh Abroaviz, Narghess Vishkai, Assal Samari, Yasamin Soufi and Mehrnaz Teherani were also all interrogated by Adareh Amaken, a section of the Tehran police customarily tasked with "moral" offences and considered to be close to the intelligence services.
The Tehran judiciary accuses these film-specialised journalists of "criticising the regime's cultural policy" and "relations with Siamak Pourzand", a journalist who was previously sentenced to 11 years in prison for "activity prejudicial to state security because of his ties with the monarchists and counter-revolutionaries". In addition, the director of security forces in Tehran, a man named Galifab, said he found many "immoral CDs" at the arrested journalists' homes.
Finally, Abbas Abdi, director of the Ayandeh polling firm, former editor-in-chief of the daily "Salam" and a member of the editorial staff of many reformist newspapers, who is imprisoned in an individual cell, started a hunger strike in late February. He was arrested at his home on 4 November 2002. Ayandeh was accused of "receiving money from the American polling firm Gallup, or from a foreign embassy". His arrest came after IRNA, the official Iranian press agency, had circulated on an opinion poll (carried out by the national public opinion studies company and Ayandeh) on 22 September 2002 which indicated that "74.4 percent of Iranians favoured a resumption of ties with Washington."