Saeed Matin-Pour (ADAPP)

Seven journalists among those beaten in Iran’s Evin Prison

New York, April 18, 2014–At least seven journalists were among those attacked when Iranian guards and intelligence officials raided a section of Tehran’s Evin Prison holding political prisoners on Thursday, according to news websites and human rights groups.

The unprecedented violent attack left dozens of prisoners injured, some hospitalized, and others transferred to solitary confinement, according to news reports.

Among those attacked were journalists Mohammad Davari, a winner of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2010, Saeed Matin-Pour, a freelancer imprisoned since 2009; Omid Behroozi, a journalist for Majzooban-e-Noor website reporting on the Gonabadi dervish community, imprisoned since 2011; Seyed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, a blogger imprisoned since 2009; Siamak Ghaderi, a blogger imprisoned since 2010; Saeed Haeri, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, an organization of journalists who document human rights abuses;  and Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and managing editor of Payam-e-Mardom,  imprisoned since 2007. 

All of the journalists were beaten with batons, reports said. Behroozi was bleeding as a result of a torn vein in his hand, caused by cut glass. The rest of the journalists were among those transferred to solitary confinement, according to Kaleme and other opposition news sources.

“There is no reason for any of these journalists to be imprisoned in the first place. Their only ‘crime’ is independent journalism, and now they are being punished with physical violence on top of detention,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator. “We call on the Iranian government to hold to account those involved in the attack and to ensure that all the journalists receive appropriate medical care.”

Gholam-Hossein Esmaeili, head of the country’s prisons, denied there were clashes in the prison and claimed the raid was carried out according to monthly inspection procedures, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported. Asked about injuries suffered by the prisoners, Esmaeili said, “We don’t intend to respond to the allegations made by opposition websites that spread lies against the regime,” according to ILNA.

Iran was the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide when CPJ released its most recent annual prison census, with 35 journalists behind bars on December 1, 2013. The climate for press freedom in Iran remains bleak, despite hopes for reform under the leadership of President Hassan Rouhani, according to CPJ research.