Iranian journalist’s health is deteriorating in jail

New York, March 30, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the health and well-being of Emadeddin Baghia prominent Iranian journalist, author, and human rights activist who has been detained without charges in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since December 2009.

Baghi, who has respiratory and heart conditions, is being kept in a cell in a deteriorating physical state. He has suffered seizures and a heart attack before this imprisonment, and he remains without access to a lawyer, the BBC Persian service reported. Baghi was transferred to a hospital on March 20 after losing consciousness from a respiratory condition but returned to prison after a few days, according to the same report.

In an interview with reformist news Web site Jonbesh-e Rah-e Sabz, Baghi’s wife, Fatemeh Kamali, said that she was finally allowed to see him on Monday but that her husband’s condition was worrisome. She added that Baghi’s family posted bail for a temporary release prior to the Iranian New Year on March 16 but that authorities refused to release him. Baghi’s general arrest warrant issued in December stated he was detained to “prevent abuse of Ayatollah Montazeri’s death.” An interview conducted by Baghi two years ago with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was aired by the BBC Persian service and widely distributed online after the cleric’s death.

“The continued detention of Emadeddin Baghi is inhumane,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “The Iranian authorities are responsible for Baghi’s welfare behind bars and we urge them to immediately release him so that he can seek adequate medical care.”

Baghi has been arrested numerous times. In 2000, he was sentenced to five and a half years in prison on charges of “questioning Islamic law,” “threatening national security,” and “spreading unsubstantiated news” in articles detailing the roles of intelligence agents in a series of politically motivated murders. He served three years in prison before being released. He was arrested again in 2007 and spent several months in captivity for “acting against national security,” according to local and international news reports.

Since the disputed presidential elections in June 2009, more than 100 journalists have been detained, opposition and critical Web sites have been blocked, and authorities have censored or shut down newspapers on several occasions. CPJ research found that at least 52 journalists were behind bars in Iran as of March 1.