Friday, February 22, 2008

AKI - Adnkronos international Iran: Young Beluchi journalist condemned to death

Iran: Young Beluchi journalist condemned to death

Tehran, 12 Feb. (AKI) - Yaghoub Mehrnahad, a student and journalist from the Beluchi ethnic group, is the latest person to be condemned to death in Iran.

The trial against Mehrnahad took place behind closed doors on Monday without legal representation or his family.

According to the student site of the Amir Kabir University of Technology in Tehran, the young journalist was arrested last April at the end of a debate organised in Zahewdan, capital of Iranian Beluchistan.

His family last saw him in Zahefan prison last December saying his body showed obvious signs of torture.

Quoted on the Amir Kabiri site, Yaghoub's younger brother said it was being said that his brother had died in prison after being tortured and his trial and death sentence was only a way to hide the truth.

Mehrnahad is accused of having had contact with the armed group of Jondollah, that operates in Iranian Beluchistan.

Mehrnahad is not the first journalist condemned to death in recent years. Two other Kurdish journalists, Hiwa Boutimar and Adnan Hassanpour were condemned to death last July and are awaiting execution.

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Reporters sans frontières - Iran - Annual report 2008

ran’s leaders still accuse the independent media of being in the pay of the United States or the European Union, which has resulted in long prison terms for journalists from a cowed and complicit judiciary. Reporters based in Teheran and Kurdistan were targeted in 2007, with dozens of arrests, convictions and closures of newspapers.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hit the world’s headlines in 2007 with his diatribes against the West and his talk of nuclear development, saying it was “the country’s greatest battle” and using it to hide Iran’s economic and social problems. Several journalists protected by the regime’s hardliners strongly criticised him in print and some papers, with bogus liberalism, opposed government policies. Freelance journalists who did the same, however, were punished and the country remained the Middle East’s biggest prison for journalists, with more than 50 journalists jailed in 2007. Ten of them were still in prison at the end of the year.

When asked abroad about human rights violations and imprisonment of dissidents and members of religious and sexual minorities, Ahmadinejad insists that Iranians are “the freest people in the world.” But the regime’s persecution of journalists and human rights activists continued in 2007.

The March 2008 parliamentary elections are expected to see further restrictions on the free flow of information. Many reformist papers were closed and news websites blocked during the last elections in 2004.

Journalist condemned to death

Hundreds of people were executed in 2007 and the supreme court confirmed in November a death sentence on freelance journalist Adnan Hassanpour, accused of “undermining national security,” “spying,” “separatist propaganda” and being a mohareb (fighter against God). He was arrested on 25 January and has been in Sanandaj prison, in Kurdistan, since 18 July and has refused to sign any confessions. He was probably arrested because of his contacts with journalists working for the US-funded radio stations Radio Farda and Voice of America.


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