Person(s): Kambiz Kaheh, Said Mostaghasi, Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara, Alireza Eshraghi, Mohammad Abdi, Amir Ezati, Yasamin Soufi
Target(s): editor(s), journalist(s)
Type(s) of violation(s): arrested, detained
Five journalists have been arrested in less than one week in Iran, just as a delegation from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) completed a visit to the country to investigate arbitrary arrests.
Film magazine journalists Kambiz Kaheh and Said Mostaghasi were arrested on 26 February 2003. Mohammad Abdi, editor-in-chief of the monthly "Honar Haftom", and Amir Ezati, of "Mahnameh Film", were arrested on 28 February, and film music critic Yasamin Soufi was arrested on 1 March.
"At a time when a delegation from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, led by Louis Joinet, has just finished an investigative tour of Iran, these arrests are an insult to the body," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. The organisation has asked the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, to immediately release the five journalists and eight others, including Alireza Eshraghi, a journalist who has been imprisoned since the beginning of the year.
At a press conference held at the end of the UNCHR tour, Joinet voiced his concern about freedom of expression in Iran and stated that "solitary confinement, which is broadly imposed and for very long periods, can be considered a prison within a prison (...)."
On 26 February, Kaheh, a journalist who works for the film magazines "Cinema-Jahan", "Majaleh Film", "Donyai Tassvir" and "Cinema-é-No", and "Haftehnameh Cinema" journalist Mostaghasi were arrested at their homes and transferred to an unknown location. Their homes were also searched. The authors of the arrest have not been identified. On 28 February, Abdi, editor-in-chief of the monthly "Honar Haftom", and Ezati, of "Mahnameh Film", were arrested in similar circumstances. On 1 March, film music critic Soufi was summoned by Adareh Amaken (a section of the Tehran police that usually handles "moral crimes" and is considered close to the intelligence services), and then transferred to an unknown location.
Journalist Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara was released on 22 February after staging a hunger strike. His arrest on 18 February came a few days after his website, www.alliran.net, carried an article in which he criticised Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Guide of the Islamic Republic.
"Hayat-é-No" journalist Eshraghi has been detained at Evin prison, near Tehran, since 12 January. His mother, Mehri Zayanderodi Zadeh, is very concerned for his well-being. She sent a letter to President Mohammed Khatami on 17 January in which she noted that her son, jailed for over 40 days in an individual cell, has lost a lot of weight and is suicidal. During the week of 26 February, about 100 journalists sent a letter to Iranian leaders calling for the release of Eshraghi and his colleagues.
Eshraghi's arrest and "Hayat-é-No"'s closure followed the paper's publication of a caricature on 8 January representing a bearded old man wearing a long black cloak and sitting on the ground with the thumb of a giant hand pressing down on his head and the caption "Roosevelt" on the sleeve. The drawing, taken from an official American website, was originally published in 1937 in an American newspaper to depict the pressure exerted by then-President Franklin Roosevelt on the United States Supreme Court.