Appeals court upholds jail sentence of Kurdish journalist

New York, September 15, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the ruling of an Iranian appeals court upholding a one-year prison sentence against Kurdish journalist and human rights activist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand.

The court of appeals in the northwestern province of Kurdistan ordered him to serve the suspended jail term, the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. Kabudvand, managing editor of the bilingual Kurdish and Farsi weekly Payam Mardom Kordestan, was summoned by authorities in the western city of Sanandaj on September 13 to begin his sentence, ILNA said. The court also upheld a five-year ban on his practicing journalism.

Kabudvand plans to appeal to Iran’s Supreme Court. He was convicted last October of “inciting the population to rebel against the central state” and creating racial and tribal tensions. He had published articles about torture in Iranian jails, and advocated a federal system of government for the Islamic republic. Payam Mardom Kordestan was banned on June 27, 2004, after 13 issues, according to news reports.

Kabudvand was appointed secretary of the Kurdistan Organization for the Defense of Human Rights in April 2005.

“The decision to uphold the conviction of Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand represents yet another blatant violation of press freedom in Iran,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on Iran’s State Supreme Court to hear his appeal quickly and overturn this conviction.”

The jailing of Kabudvand is part of ongoing repression of critical media in Iran. On August 28, Issa Saharkhiz, the managing editor of the now-defunct critical monthly magazine Aftab, received a four-year prison sentence and a five-year ban on practicing journalism from a court of first instance in Tehran, according to the Iran Student News Agency. The court revoked the monthly’s publishing license, which had already been suspended. Saharkhiz was convicted of disseminating false information in articles he published several years ago that criticized Iran’s human rights record, particularly conditions in the country’s notorious prisons. Saharkhiz has 20 days to appeal.

On August 19, Saghi Baghernia, publisher of the daily economic newspaper Asia, received a six-month jail sentence from a Tehran court for “insulting the regime,” according to CPJ sources. On July 5, 2003, she published a photograph of Paris-based Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi smiling after her release from a French prison on terrorism charges.

Rajavi is the wife of Massoud Rajavi, leader of Mujahedeen Khalq, a group that the United States considers a terrorist organization, and which is dedicated to the overthrow of the government in Tehran. Baghernia’s husband Iraj Jamshidi, editor of Asia, was sentenced in July 2003 and served a year in prison also for publishing the photo. Baghernia was convicted as the license holder of Asia. She is not in jail, but maybe summoned anytime to serve her sentence, according to CPJ sources.