CPJ urges Iranian authorities to release journalists

New York, April 18, 2013–The cases of an Iranian blogger imprisoned for seven months without trial and a prominent freelance journalist whose health has deteriorated in prison illustrate the ongoing abuses being perpetrated by Iranian authorities, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Kaveh Taheri, a blogger who has been held at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz since September, faces charges of “acting against national security” and “creating public anxiety in the virtual space,” according to news reports. His sister, Laleh Taheri, told CPJ that his first court date has been scheduled for Monday, after seven months in detention.

Taheri was detained in connection with his blog, called Pouyesh, in which he “wrote his opinions on the country’s issues,” according to his sister. The blog has since been taken down from the Web. Taheri’s sister told CPJ that he told their parents during a visit that he had been tortured in custody and coerced into giving a false confession, and that the confessions were videotaped. She said he has not been allowed access to his lawyer.

Another journalist, Mehdi Khazali, a journalist who has been imprisoned since October 30, has waged several hunger strikes to protest abusive prison conditions, news reports said. His latest hunger strike, in early 2013, has left him in deteriorating health, according to his son, Mohammad Saleh Khazali.

Khazali, the son of a high-ranking cleric, had criticized the regime on his blog, which has since been hacked, CPJ research shows. He was sentenced in February 2012 to 14 years in prison, 10 years in exile, and 90 lashes after being convicted of “insulting the supreme leader,” according to news reports.

“The hardships endured by these journalists illustrate the Iranian government’s inhumane treatment of its own citizens,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator. “People exercising their right to an opinion should never be subjected to arbitrary detention and abuse.”

CPJ has documented several cases of abuse toward journalists in Iranian prisons. Political blogger Sattar Beheshti  died inside Adel Abad Prison in November from severe mistreatment. He was the third journalist to die in custody after Omidreza Mirsayafi in 2009 and Hoda Saber in 2011, according to CPJ research.