Journalist held for two weeks without charge

New York, August 12, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Iranian authorities to make public any charges against a Kurdish journalist and human rights activist who they have held for more than two weeks, or release him immediately.

On July 27, security forces arrested Saman Rasoulpour, 23, a Kurdish journalist and a member of Organization for the Defense of Human Rights in Kurdistan, in his home in Mahabad, a Kurdish city in northwest Iran, according to local journalists and international news and human rights agencies. He was picked up by three casually dressed men at 9 a.m. and has been detained in Mahabad’s security office since then, local journalists told CPJ.

Rasoulpour is a regular contributor to Rooz Online, a Farsi and English reformist news Web site. Rasoulpour has written about the lack of human rights for Iran’s minority Kurds. In his last article published on Rooz Online in January 28, Rasoulpour reported on a statement by human rights organizations on the death of a detainee–university student Ibrahim Lutfullahiin Sanandaj, capital of Kordestan Province. The authorities had claimed that the detainee had committed suicide, but the organizations and activists were suspicious of the claim and asked for investigation.   

“Saman Rasoulpour’s arrest has been shrouded in secrecy. We fear that he is being held for his critical reporting on human rights in Iran,” said CPJ Senior Program Coordinator Joel Campagna. “We call on the Iranian authorities to state why they are holding him and either charge him with a recognizable offense or release him immediately.”

Local journalists told CPJ that Rasoulpour is not legally entitled to a lawyer until he is formally charged.
They also said that they believe his detention is because of his journalism and activism, but one colleague added that “he was always careful about what he was publishing” in terms of not crossing legal lines. Two who have been following the case said Rasoulpour has not been charged yet.

The arrest came two days after a peaceful demonstration in Mahabad to show solidarity with journalists and activists Adnan Hassanpour, 26, and Abdolvahed (Hiwa) Boutimar, 31, who have been on death row since an Islamic tribunal sentenced them in July 2007. They have been convicted of Moharebeh (fighting with God), which, in the Iranian Islamic penal code, is a charge used against persons who allegedly take up arms to violently overthrow the regime. 

Local sources told CPJ that Rasoulpour had not participated in the demonstration. His family has been allowed to contact him only once since his detention, journalists told CPJ.

Rasoulpour had been detained for six months without charge in 2006, local journalists told CPJ.