Afghan journalist detained without explanation in Iran

New York, March 14, 2008—Iranian authorities should immediately disclose the legal status of Afghan journalist Ali Mohaqiq Nasab who was arrested in the north-central city of Qom 10 days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Nasab, 50, was taken from his home on March 4 by three plainclothes police officers who were bearing a warrant, according to his wife, Sahar Mohaqiq Nasab. Police searched the house and seized his computer, handwritten unpublished manuscripts, and identification documents that included the couple’s marriage certificate, Sahar told CPJ by phone through an interpreter.

Police refused to disclose the reason for his detention, but told Sahar that the warrant had been issued by the local clerical tribunal. She said she was not allowed to read the warrant beyond her husband’s name in the heading. Sahar said she has made daily trips to the clerical court since the arrest to learn his location and legal status, but officials have denied her requests for more information.  

“We are alarmed by the unexplained detention of Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, who fled his own country when he was targeted because of his journalism,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Iranian authorities should disclose charges or release him immediately.”

Nasab left his native Afghanistan in 2006 after serving part of a two-year prison sentence on a blasphemy charges.

Nasab, a religious scholar, was arrested in Afghanistan in October 2005 on charges related to articles published in a magazine he edited titled Haqooq-i-Zan (Women’s Rights). He was released in December 2005 after the sentence was commuted on appeal. The magazine was subsequently shut down in Afghanistan, and Nasab has not published any articles since returning to Iran two years ago, Sahar said. The couple had previously spent several years in Iran prior to 2003. They now have a 10-month-old child.

Rahimullah Samander, president of the Afghan Independent Journalists Association told CPJ that Nasab’s arrest might stem from renewed clerical attention to his writings. Nasab had advocated a more liberal interpretation of Islamic law in published articles.