Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fate of Jailed Journalists in Iran Remains Unclear

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Adnkronos International (AKI)

The Tehran prosecutor said on Friday that his office was investigating the arrest of Agence France Presse reporter Farhad Pouladi while he was covering an anti-American rally in the Iranian capital this week. "The claim about the arrest of the AFP journalist is under investigation," the country's official news agency IRNA quoted Abbas Jaffari Doulatabadi as saying. The prosecutor confirmed that several people were arrested on Wednesday when a commemoration of the 1979 storming of the US embassy was overshadowed by a counter demonstration by opponents of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's. "Some people were arrested on November 4. The policy of the prosecutor's office is to release all those people against whom there are no accusations," he said. Four journalists - including a Japanese, two Canadians and an Iranian - were reportedly among those arrested in Tehran after covering the opposition protest in the Iranian capital. According to the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars, the journalists "are being investigated". The news agency gave no further details about the journalists except to say that the Iranian journalist was working for "satellite channels". Human rights groups Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders have condemned the use of excessive force by Iranian authorities to counter recent protests against the government.

“Journalists are still being kidnapped or arrested illegally in Iran,” Reporters Without Borders said on its website. “At least 100 journalists and cyber-dissidents have been arrested in the past 145 days (since the 12 June presidential election) and 23 three of them are still being held." Amnesty expressed concern about detainees and their treatment. "Based on the experience of the summer unrest and our long-standing concerns about torture in Iran, those detained are now at risk of torture or other ill-treatment," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme on Thursday. Amnesty said 74-year-old protester Habibollah Peyman, a member of the National Peace Committee was among those beaten. It said AFP journalist Farhad Pouladi was being detained in an unknown location. Defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who has been vocal in his criticism of the authorities, also participated in the protests.