Jailed editor transferred to solitary confinement

New York, May 24, 2001 — Jailed Iranian editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin was transferred to solitary confinement on May 17, sources in Iran told CPJ. Shamsolvaezin has also been summoned by Tehran’s Press Court for questioning about his alleged ties with opposition figures, several of whom were recently arrested.

Shamsolvaezin, the editor of several now-banned Iranian reformist dailies, was jailed in April 2000, after being sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for the crime of “insulting Islamic principles.” The editor was prosecuted for publishing an article that criticized capital punishment in Iran. Last year, he received a CPJ International Press Freedom Award for courage and independence in reporting the news.

Despite recent reports that he might be released from prison, it is now feared that the new charges against Shamsolvaezin are a pretext to keep him behind bars during the run-up to Iran’s presidential election, scheduled for June 8.

In a separate development, jailed investigative reporter Akbar Ganji remains in prison despite a May 15 appellate court ruling that reduced his 10-year prison sentence to six months. Judge Said Mortazavi, a hard-line jurist who sits on the Press Court, has appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, this was an unusual move given that the Press Court did not have jurisdiction in the case of Ganji, who was sentenced by the Revolutionary Court, an entirely different entity.

On April 22, 2000, Ganji, formerly a leading investigative reporter for the now-banned daily Sobh-e-Emrooz and a member of the editorial board of the banned daily Fat’h, was arrested because of his writings and for attending a conference in Berlin that month that Iranian conservatives attacked as un-Islamic. He was prosecuted in both the Press Court and the Revolutionary Court for “conspiring to overthrow the system of the Islamic Republic.”

The Press Court case stemmed from Ganji’s investigative articles about the 1998 killings of several Iranian dissidents and intellectuals. Ganji’s work implicated top intelligence officials and clerics.

The Revolutionary Court charged him with spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime and threatening national security in his remarks to the Berlin conference on the future of the reform movement in Iran.

“CPJ calls for the immediate release of Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Akbar Ganji, and all other journalists currently jailed for their work in Iran,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “In a just society, no one should have reason to fear incarceration simply for informing the public about matters of obvious national interest.”