Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Economist on Iran's Akbar Ganji: "a courageous and obdurate man willing to lay down his life on a matter of principle".

That's what the Economist wrote of him in the latest issue, and you can sign the petitution below to the UN Human Rights Commisionaire, European Parliament, and Iranian Authorities to free him here.

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the condition of Mr. Akbar Ganji, the Iranian investigative journalist and a prominent advocate of human rights and civil society who has been in prison for the past five years. Mr. Ganji was arrested on April 22, 2000 following his participation in an academic and cultural conference held at the Heinrich Böll Institute in Berlin, April 7-9, 2000. He was sentenced on January 13, 2001 to 10 years' imprisonment plus five years' internal exile.

On May 15, 2001 an appellate court reduced Ganji's sentence on appeal to six months' imprisonment and overturned his sentence of five years in exile. The Supreme Court, however, overturned the appellate court's decision and referred the case to a different appeals court. On July 16, 2001 Ganji was again sentenced to six years in prison on charges of collecting confidential information that harms national security and spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime by attending the Berlin conference.

As Ms. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Laureate and Mr. Ganji’s attorney, reported Ganji started a hunger strike on May 19, 2005 and ended on May 25th in order to give the opportunity to authorities to respond to his concerns. Mr. Ganji has suffered from asthma for a few years and now shows serious symptoms of illness such as severe coughing. Mr. Ganji’s illness is not responding to his old medications and he needs to be re-examined in short order. Ms. Ebadi has asked Judicial authorities several times, on his behalf, to allow him to be seen and treated by outside physicians, but unfortunately these requests have been all rejected. His health is now deteriorating and his return to another hunger strike that is reported by his wife will further jeopardize his life.

We express our astonishment that a person, who has served his country, has devoted his life to the improvement of civil society and has come to be known as one of the most vocal and respected journalists of his time should be treated in this way. Mr. Ganji is an honorable member of the PEN Canada and continues his work and writing even from inside the prison wards. It appears that major reason for keeping Ganji in prison might be due to a series of articles he had written as an investigative journalist implicating leading Iranian political figures in the 1998 murders of several dissidents and intellectuals.

We believe that Mr. Ganji is held in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic.

We are very disturbed by the health and prison conditions of Mr. Ganji. We demand that Akbar Ganji be released immediately and unconditionally and charges against him dropped. In addition we urge you to ensure that he receives immediate and proper medical treatment while his release is being processed.

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