Saturday, November 13, 2010

IRAN: Leading journalist returned to prison; serious health concerns.

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is seriously concerned about reports that leading journalist and human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi has been returned to prison despite severe health problems. Baghi was sentenced to six years in prison in September 2010 on charges relating to an interview he gave to the BBC's Persian Service in 2008, but remained free on bail until on 5 December 2010. He is said to be held without access to family visits, and there are serious concerns for his welfare in prison. PEN International reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of Emadeddin Baghi in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and on humanitarian grounds.

According to PEN's information, Emadeddin Baghi, prominent Iranian journalist and human rights activist, was arrested on 28 December 2009 following the broadcast by the BBC Persian Service of a two-year old interview Baghi had conducted with the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, an influential cleric who died in December 2009. The government has sought to clamp down on publicity about Montazeri, who had criticized the conduct of the June presidential election. Baghi spent nearly six months in solitary confinement before being released from the notorious Evin prison on 23 June 2010, on bail of 200 million Tomans (approx. US$ 200,000). He was sentenced in September 2010 to six years in prison. He was also sentenced to one year in prison and a five year political ban handed down in July 2010 for his work advocating prisoners' rights.


Emadeddin Baghi has a long history of political imprisonment and persecution. He was first imprisoned on 29 May 2000 and sentenced to a three-year prison term on charges of ‘endangering national security' for his writings about the serial murder of dissident intellectuals in Iran in the late 1990s. He served two years of that sentence, and one year was suspended. He was also handed down a one-year suspended term in 2003 for "endangering national security" and "printing lies" in his book, The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran. His newspaper Joumhouriat was shut down in 2003. In October 2007 he was sentenced to one year in prison for "acting against national security', ‘propaganda against the Islamic Republic' and ‘divulging state secret information' for his activities as president of the Society for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights, an organisation that he founded in 2003. In December 2007 he suffered a heart attack and three seizures in prison, and remained in poor health without adequate medical care until his release in October 2008. PEN International advocated for his release during his previous detentions.

Baghi is the founder of the Association for the Defence of Prisoner's Rights, which had been compiling information on torture and other abuses of detainees. In the late 1990's he exposed the serial murders of Iranian intellectuals. His books Right to Life and Right to Life II argue for the abolition of the death penalty and have been banned by the authorities. He is author of twenty books, six of which have been banned in Iran, and winner of the Martin Annals Award in 2009 and British Press Awards for International Journalist of the Year 2008.

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