Journalist sentenced to prison

New York, May 2, 2002–CPJ condemns the recent sentencing of Iranian reformist journalist Ahmed Zaid-Abadi, a writer for the newspaper Hamshahri, to 23 months in prison.

On April 29, The Associated Press quoted Zaid-Abadi’s wife as saying that he was originally charged in August 2000 with “insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei and publishing lies against the Islamic establishment for the purpose of disturbing public opinion.” The charges came after he gave a series of lectures at several Iranian universities, according to a CPJ source.

He was not convicted but spent seven months in prison before being released on bail. Authorities did not pursue the case until this week.

The verdict seems prompted by a recent interview that Zaid-Abadi granted to the daily newspaper Bonyan newspaper, in which he condemned Palestinian suicide bombings. He also said he supported United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the so-called land for peace resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the Iranian government opposes, a local source told CPJ.
News of Zaid-Abadi’s prison sentence follows an April 28 report by IRNA, Iran’s official state news agency, that Jalal Jalali-Zadeh, head of the weekly Sirvan, and Mostafa Kavakebian director of the reformist daily Mardom Salari, were summoned on Saturday, April 27, and Sunday, April 28, respectively, to appear before the Press Court, which hears most cases relating to journalists and publications based in Tehran. The reasons for the summonses are unclear.
Zaid-Abadi has previously written for the reformist daily Azad, closed in April 2000, and the newspaper Ettela’at.

He has appealed the court’s verdict and is currently free.

According to CPJ research, 48 publications have been closed since a crackdown on the press began in April 2000. At least three Iranian journalists are currently imprisoned for their work.