New Death Sentence on Journalists in Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iranian’s execution wave has reached the media in Iran. On 16 July 2007, two Kurdish journalists, Mr. Adnan Hassanpour and Mr.Hiva Boutimar were sentenced to death by an Islamic tribunal in Marivan, a Kurdish city in the north-west Iran. They are supposed to be brought to the scaffold in the coming days. Judiciary spokesman, Mr. Ali Reza Jamshidi, confirmed that these two journalists have been sentenced to death, state media reported Tuesday, 31 0f July.

At a trial behind closed doors, the journalists were found guilty of “activities subverting national security, spying, and interviews for foreign news media including Voice of America”. These “accusations” were cited by the prosecution and, amazingly, confirmed by the journalists’ lawyer, Sirvan Hosmandi– who seems to be more of a public prosecutor than their lawyer!

The journalists were transferred to Sanandaj, the capital of the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, where they wait for their eventual death penalty.

The two journalists were sentenced on the charge of “mohareb,” (fighter against Islam). The term, which describes a major crime against Islam and the God’s state of the IRI, is a routine term used to justify execution of political activists.

Death sentence for “profane” writers and journalists is reminiscent of Khomeini’s death fatwa on Salman Rushdie. The first time the term “Mohareb” was used for a foreign writer was to justify Khomeini’s death fatwa on the British citizen Salman Rushdie.

Last year, another IRI senior official, Sheikh Fazel Lankarani, issued a death fatwa on an Azeri journalist, Rafig Tagi, because of his “profane“ article “humiliating Prophet Muhammad”. The two Kurdish journalists are in fact the first Iranian journalists being accused of “Mohareb”.

Despite constant repression on media and journalists, such a sentence proves a deterioration of general repression on the media.

Three other Kurdish journalists are currently in prison in Iran. Ejlal Ghavani of Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan, a local weekly that was suspended in 2004, was detained on 9 July of this year after being convicted by a court in Sanandaj of “inciting the population to revolt” and “activities against national security.”

Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand, Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan’s editor and the founder of a human rights organisation, was arrested on 1 July and transferred to Evin prison. He has not been officially charged.

Another journalist, Kaveh Javanmard, of the weekly Karfto is condemned to two years in prison. He was not allowed access to a lawyer during his trial, which took place behind closed doors.

With a total of eight journalists currently detained, Iran continues to be the Middle East’s biggest prison for the press and one of the world’s ten most repressive countries as regards freedom of expression in the media.

Execution of the twelve executed “thugs” of July 22 was the starting point of the new execution wave. On that day alone, all of them were hanged, accused of theft, rape, and violation of Islamic norms.

According to opposition sources, at least three of them were political activists. The “accused” were detained by security forces during the ongoing crackdown on “hooliganism”. Their death verdict was pronounced in the absence of any bill of indictment and power of attorney.

The chain of executions now reaches the media, a vital source of flow of news under any totalitarian regime. Reporters Without Borders writes: “We appeal to the international community to ask Iran to reverse this decision and to refrain from executing two journalists who did nothing but exercise their right to inform their fellow citizens”. The source continues, “Iran is in the process of becoming one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.”

The IRI favours stoning and public hangings in order to intimidate the angry people of Iran. According to the Iranian state, the IRI newly hanged, on August 1st, seven “thugs” in the city of Mashhad, north-east Iran. All seven were accused of routine charges like rape, kidnapping and robbery. The IRI routinely executes dissidents on bogus charges such as armed robbery and drug smuggling.

Under such circumstances, the “civilised” world is seriously expected to prove its civilisation by intensifying its pressure on the IRI to prevent this chain of barbaric executions.

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