November 7, 2003

Mohsen Sazegara Released Iran Press Service

TEHRAN 7 Oct. (IPS) Mr. Mohsen Sazegara, a prominent dissident politician and journalist known for his outspoken criticism of the Islamic Republic's clerical leaders was released on bail on Monday after four months in jail, the British news agency Reuters quoted his brother as having announced.

A co-founder of a new political party with Mr. Qasem Sho´leh Sa´di and some other “new reformers” who call for radical change in Iranian Constitution, Mr. Sazgara, a one-time press aide to the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was freed after his family paid the equivalent of $750,000 bail.

Sazgara, who has been editor of several liberal newspapers and news Web sites closed down by the hardline judiciary in the past four years, was arrested in June, charged with provoking student protests that shook Tehran and several other Iranian cities in June and July, his lawyer told the official IRNA news agency.

Rumours had been flying in recent days about Sazgara's deteriorating health, prompting the judiciary to take the unusual step of denying that he had died while in custody and assuring that he was “well, both physically and mentally, detained with other (political) prisoners”.

''He has lost around 20 kg (44 pounds) and we will take him to hospital for a general check-up tonight or tomorrow morning,'' his brother Mehdi Sazgara told Reuters.

''He was imprisoned for almost 113 days but he spent 79 days in solitary confinement'', he added, as other informed Iranian opposition sources outside Iran speculated that the regime had itself exagerated the news about its row with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency to better crackdown influential political dissidents.

“While the whole world seems to be preoccupied with Iran´s nuclear programs, it pays little attention to the worsening human rights situation in Iran and particularly that of political prisoners”, Mr.Javad Sho´leh Sa´di, the youngest son of the lawyer and university rofessor who told Iran Press Service.

Dr. Sho´leh Sa´di was detained last August and suffered torture while in prison, charged with having questionned openly the leader´s religious credentials and his domestic and foreign policies, mostly his defiant opposition to dialogue with the United States.

Besides Mr. Sazegara, several other prominent Iranian journalists, namely Mr. Abbas Abdi, Akbar Ganji, Hoda Saber, Reza Alijani and Taqi Rahmani, to name some, are in jail, with their families and lawyers unable to reach them.

In a recent letter to the authorities, families of the jailed intellectuals have warned that if they continue not releasing any sound information about the status of their relatives, they would have no other choice but to get help from the international community.

Paris-based media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Friday called on Iranian authorities to give immediate news and guarantees about the health of Sazgara who has heart problems, and other jailed dissidents.

According to RSF Iran is the biggest jail for journalists in the Middle East with 17 journalists in prison and its leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenehí, one of the world´s “predators” of journalists asnd press freedom. ENDS SAZEGARA RELEASED 71003


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