Iranian journalists released after four months

New York, November 3, 2003—Coalition forces in Iraq have released two Iranian journalists who had been held for four months on suspicion of spying.

Said Abu Taleb and Soheil Kareemi, two journalists with Iranian State Television, were released today and returned to Iran. According to their colleagues, the journalists were in Iraq working on a documentary film for Iran’s Channel 2 television when U.S. forces detained them on July 1, after the journalists were seen filming near a U.S. military position. At the time of the arrests, a Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) spokesman told reporters in Iraq that the two journalists were being held for committing “security violations,” and that they were “not acting in a journalistic capacity when they were arrested.”

Since then there has been little information about the journalists’ whereabouts. Repeated requests by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for information about the detentions to the CPA and U.S. military authorities in Iraq, including a July 29 letter to CPA head L. Paul Bremer, went unanswered.

U.K. media reported that the British government was mediating for the journalists’ release. The British Foreign Office said today that “It was unfortunate that these two journalists were caught up in the stringent security regime currently in place in Iraq.” It added that “After several fatal attacks on Coalition forces at checkpoints, the Coalition authorities could not afford to take any chances. But we are pleased that the issue has now been resolved and the men are now on their way home.”