Journalist sentenced for criticizing regime

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New York, July 17, 2000–A leading Iranian reporter detained since late May was sentenced today by Tehran’s Press Court to five and a half years in prison, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Emadeddin Baghi’s incarceration is the result of a multitude of charges stemming from his critical writings.

Baghi, a prominent reformist reporter whose investigative writings implicated Iranian officials in the mysterious murders in recent years of intellectuals and dissidents, wrote for the now-banned daily Neshat and was a member of the editorial board of another outlawed daily, Fatth.

According to IRNA, Baghi had been charged with publishing articles that “questioned the validity of…Islamic law,” with “threatening national security, and…for spreading unsubstantiated news stories” about the role of “agents of the Intelligence Ministry in the serial murder of intellectuals and dissidents in 1998.” The charges were based on complaints lodged by a number of government agencies, including the Intelligence Ministry, the conservative controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, and former security officials.

Baghi has remained in Tehran’s Evin Prison since he was ordered detained by the court on May 29. His closed-door trial began on May 1.

Baghi’s conviction coincides with the release on Sunday of Mohsen Kadivar, a reformist cleric, philosopher, and contributor to the now-defunct daily Khordad. Kadivar was arrested in February 1999 and sentenced to 18 months in prison by Iran’s Special Court for Clergy. He was charged with “disseminating lies” and “misleading public opinion.” Kadivar was freed upon completing his sentence, although, IRNA reported that other unspecified charges may be pending against him.

The charges that led to Kadivar’s imprisonment had stemmed from articles, interviews, and public lectures critical of the Islamic Republic. In an article published on February 14, 1999 in Khordad, Kadivar, compared the authoritarian rule of Iran’s ruling clerics to that of the Shah.

At least five Iranian journalists remain in prison on charges related to their professional work. In addition to Emadeddin Baghi, they include publisher Abdullah Nouri; editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin; investigative reporter Akbar Ganji and managing editor Latif Safari.

“The conviction of Emadeddin Baghi represents yet another blatant violation of basic press freedom norms in Iran,” said CPJ Executive Director, Ann Cooper. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Emadeddin Baghi and all other Iranian journalists who have been unjustly imprisoned for practicing their profession.”