Iran: Free Unjustly Held Journalists

Sasan Aghaei, July 2017. © Private

No Let-up in Authorities’ Targeting of Media

HRW- September 13, 2017 – (Beirut) – Two Iranian journalists arrested in Tehran in August 2017 remain detained without formal charges, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should immediately release them or charge them with recognizable criminal offenses and ensure them fair trials.

Authorities from the Judiciary Intelligence Agency arrested Sasan Aghaei, 34, deputy editor of the reformist daily Etemad, at his office in Tehran on August 13. On August 22, authorities also arrested Yaghma Fashkhami, a journalist for the Didban Iranwebsite, at his office in Tehran. Both had been arbitrarily detained previously, in violation of their rights to freedom of speech.

“Iran’s judiciary and intelligence agencies have a longstanding pattern of prosecuting journalists on dubious national security charges,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The latest journalists to be arrested have not been accused of doing anything beyond exercising their right to free speech, and should be freed immediately.”

Since his arrest – the fourth time since 2009 – Aghaei has been held in solitary confinement in ward 241 of Evin prison in Tehran, which is under the supervision of the Judiciary Intelligence Agency. A source close to the Aghaei family, who wished to remain anonymous, told Human Rights Watch that “authorities are pressuring Aghaei to confess to having ties with the Amad News website,” which Iranian authorities consider an opposition outlet. “They could have simply summoned him instead of showing up to arrest him as a criminal,” the source said. Indefinite solitary confinement is cruel and inhuman treatment and can amount to torture, Human Rights Watch said.

On September 11, a source close to the Fashkhami family told Human Rights Watch that the authorities who first detained Fashkhami for five days later extended the detention to one month. “The family has been going to the court every day, but still do not know what charges he is facing,” the source said.

On August 31, Azam Eghtesad, the mother of Ehsan Mazandarani, a reformist journalist who has been detained in Evin prison since March 11, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran that her son’s health had deteriorated in prison. Authorities released Mazandarani from Evin prison on February 11 after he served a year on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state,” but arrested him again a month later. Authorities told Mazandarani that his release had been “a mistake.”

On August 29, authorities released Hengameh Shahidi and Zeinab Karmianian, two journalists the Intelligence Ministry arrested in March. It is not clear whether the authorities brought any charges against the two.

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