Thursday, November 03, 2005

Iran: Journalist Tortured to Renounce Writings

(New York, November 2, 2005) ? The imprisoned Iranian journalist
and dissident, Akbar Ganji, said that Judiciary officials have tortured
him to renounce his writings. Human Rights Watch today expressed
grave concern for his physical well-being and urged the Iranian
government to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Human Rights Watch also said it holds the Iranian government
responsible for any harm to Ganji's well-being. Ganji has been in
prison since April 2000.

"Ganji's situation is now extremely critical," said Joe Stork, deputy
Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities are
exerting tremendous pressure on him to disavow his writings."

The Judiciary has held Ganji in solitary confinement since September
3 in a special ward of Tehran's Evin prison known as Alef-2. The
authorities barred his family and lawyers from visiting him except for
one brief visit on October 18 by his wife, Massoumeh Shafii, and one
of his lawyers. Afterwards, his wife published a letter detailing Ganji's
account of his mistreatment by Judiciary officials.

In addition, the Judiciary detained one of Ganji's other lawyers,
Abdolfattah Soltani, on July 30. Since then, he has been held without
charge, mostly in solitary confinement. Soltani is a co-founder of the
Center for Defense of Human Rights, an independent rights
organization in Tehran.

In July 2001, the Judiciary sentenced Ganji, an investigative journalist,
to six years in prison for his writings critical of the government. He
was convicted of "acting against national security" and "spreading
propaganda," among other charges. Ganji earlier had published a
series of articles alleging that high-level government officials were
involved in the serial murder of writers and intellectuals in 1998. He
also published a "Republican Manifesto" critical of Iran's system of

Abdolfattah Soltani is also a member of the legal team in a number of
other high-profile rights cases. Following Soltani's detention, the
Judiciary held him in solitary confinement for 42 days without
charging him with any crime. The authorities have not allowed Soltani
to meet with his lawyers.

"The Judiciary locked up Soltani as a warning to other lawyers and
rights defenders," Stork said. "The Iranian government is creating an
atmosphere of fear and intimidation in attempt to paralyze the human
rights community."

Human Rights Watch called on Iran's head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah
Mahmoud Shahrudi, to order the release of Ganji and Soltani without

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