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DISSIDENTS SILENCED IN LEAD-UP TO ELECTIONS

As the international community eyes Iran's presidential elections this month, IFEX members are calling attention to the plight of the country's imprisoned dissidents and writers.

Akbar Ganji, one of Iran's most prominent dissidents and journalists, was re-imprisoned on 11 June after authorities cut short his medical leave. Ganji, who suffers from acute asthma, had been granted medical leave on 30 May and told that it would be extended, reported Human Rights Watch. However, agents acting under the authority of Tehran chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi went to Ganji's house with an order to return him to prison.

Ganji is serving a six-year prison sentence for exposing the role of high-ranking officials in orchestrating the murders of prominent intellectuals in 1998.

Ten IFEX member organisations have rallied to his defence, calling on the Iranian government to permanently release the imprisoned journalist on medical grounds (see IFEX Joint Action: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/67103/).

In a related case, Nasser Zarafshan, an imprisoned writer and lawyer who represented the families of the murdered intellectuals, suffers from kidney disease and his health has been deteriorating rapidly. Zarafshan was sentenced to five year's imprisonment by a military court in March 2002 for "disseminating confidential information." He has begun a hunger strike to protest the lack of medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Mojtaba Saminejad has been sentenced to two years in prison for "insulting the Supreme Guide" and faces a possible death penalty on a separate charge of "insulting the prophets", says Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). Mojtaba writes a blog, or online diary, which has been critical of Iran's conservative clerics.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers has launched an online petition to free Saminejad (see: http://www.iabolish.com/campaigns/campaign.php?id=Motjaba).

Visit these links:
- Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/06/14/iran11125.htm
- PEN Canada: http://www.pencanada.ca/prison/hm.php?writerID=54
- Freedom House report on Iran: http://www.freedomhouse.org/media/pressrel/061605b.htm
- Ganji Calls for Election Boycott: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/14/international/middleeast/14letter.html
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=14094
- Iran Scan 1384: http://www.opendemocracy.net/blogs/page/Iran/Weblog
(Photo: Akbar Ganji)

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