New Death Sentence on Journalists in Iran (Journalism: To gather and present... exactly as they were doing)

Submitted by Jonathan on Sat, 08/11/2007 - 4:31pm.

Paris, 5 Aug. (IPS) The wave of executions in the Islamic Republic of Iranian has now reached the Iranian media, as on 16 July 2007, two Kurdish journalists, Mr. Adnan Hassanpour and Mr. Abdolvahed (Hiva) Boutimar were sentenced to death by an Islamic tribunal in Marivan, a Kurdish city in the north-west Iran.

They are to be brought to the scaffold in the coming days. Judiciary spokesman, Mr. Ali Reza Jamshidi, confirmed that these two journalists have been sentenced to death, state media reported on Tuesday, 31 of July.

Death sentence for "profane" writers and journalists is reminiscent of Ayatollash Rouhollah Khomeini's death fatwa on Anglo-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie

At a trial behind closed doors, the journalists were found guilty of "activities subverting national security, spying, and interviews with foreign news media including the Voice of America". These "accusations" were cited by the prosecution and, amazingly, confirmed by the journalists' lawyers, Sirvan Hosmandi and Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht -- who seems to be rather a public prosecutor than their lawyer! --

The journalists were transferred to Sanandaj, the capital city of the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, where they eventually wait for their execution.

The two journalists were sentenced on the charge of "mohareb,'' (fighter against Islam). The term, which describes a major crime against Islam and the God's state of the IRI, is a routine term used to justify execution of political activists.

Death sentence for "profane" writers and journalists is reminiscent of Khomeini's death fatwa on Anglo-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie more than a decade ago. The two Kurdish journalists are in fact the first Iranian journalists being accused of "Mohareb".

Last year, another IRI's senior cleric, Sheikh Fazel Lankarani, issued a death fatwa on an Azeri journalist, Rafiq Taqi, because of his "profane" article "humiliating Prophet Mohammad".

Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht, another lawyer - or public prosecutor? -- for the journalists is reported to have said that Mr. Hassanpour has confirmed in a 140 pages testimony to have taken pictures and cartographic drawings of military areas with cameras provided to him by Kurdish organisations opposed to the Tehran regime and transferred the documents to them.

"He also confirmed contacts with Americans working at the State Department, informing him about situation in Iran", Mr. Nikbakht said, according to pro-Government media.

The hard line daily "Keyhan" quoted the lawyer as having said that Mr. Hassanpour is not a journalist, that he has "not written one single line in any newspaper".

Despite of constant repression on media and journalists, such a sentence proves a deterioration of general repression on the media in particular and the civil society in general.

Three other Kurdish journalists are currently in prison in Iran. Ejlal Qavani of "Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan", a local weekly that was suspended in 2004, was detained on 9 July of this year after being convicted by a court in Sanandaj of "inciting the population to revolt" and "activities against national security".

Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand, Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan's editor and the founder of a human rights organisation, was arrested on 1 July and transferred to Evin prison. He has not been officially charged".

Another journalist, Kaveh Javanmard, of the weekly "Karfto" is condemned to two-year prison. He was not allowed access to a lawyer during his trial, which took place behind closed doors.

With a total of eight journalists currently detained, Iran continues to be the Middle East's biggest prison for the press and one of the world's ten most repressive countries as regards freedom of expression in the media.

Execution of the twelve executed "thugs" of July 22 was the starting point of the new execution wave. Alone in that day, all of them were hanged accused of, theft, rape, and violation to Islamic norms.

With a total of eight journalists currently detained, Iran continues to be the Middle East's biggest prison for the press

According to opposition sources, at least three of them were political activists. The "accused" were detained by security forces during the ongoing crackdown on "hooliganism". Their death verdict was pronounced in absence of any bill of indictment and power of attorney.

The IRI prefers stoning and public hangings to intimidate the angry people of Iran. According to Iranian state Radio and Television, the regime hanged seven "thugs" in the city of Mashhad, north-east Iran last week. All seven were accused of routine charges like rape, kidnapping and robbery. The IRI routinely execute dissidents on bogus charges such as armed robbery and drug smuggling

Under such circumstances, the "civilised" world is seriously expected to prove its civilisation by intensifying its pressure on the IRI to prevent this chain of barbaric executions.

France's Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Bernard Kouchner, a Socialist who helped creating Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), has protested to the sentences, the same as did the European Union.

For its part, the Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontieres expressed "outrage" and "deep concern" at the sentences and called on the International community to urge the Iranian authorities to reverse the decision and refrain from executing two men who "did nothing but to exercise their right to inform Iranian people".

"The death sentences are outrageous and shameful", the pres watchdog said, noting that with a total of nine journalists detained, "the Islamic Republic of Iran is now the biggest prison the press and the world's ten most repressive countries as regard to freedom of the press and expression" ENDS JOURNALISTS SENTENCES 4807
Editor's note: Mr. Rashidian is a Germany-based political commentator and human rights activist. A regular contributor to the IPS, his articles are published by many Iranian internet web sites in Farsi.
Highlights and some editing are by IPS

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Submitted by Jonathan on Sat, 08/11/2007 - 4:31pm.