Iran's Nobel winner warns of jailed writer's health    Sun. 24 Jul 2005



TEHRAN - Iran's 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi urged human rights groups on Sunday to pay attention to the "failing" health of the jailed hunger-striking journalist Akbar Ganji, she said in a statement.

Ganji, 46, an outspoken critic of the Islamic state's clerical leadership, was rushed to a Tehran hospital last Sunday amid growing fears about his health following his a month-long hunger strike, Ganji's wife told Reuters.

Senior judiciary officials said the investigative journalist had been admitted for knee surgery, denying he was on a hunger strike.

The human rights lawyer Ebadi echoed concerns of Ganji's family about his health.

"I call on the judiciary and human rights groups to pay serious attention to my client's dangerous situation," Ebadi, who is Ganji's lawyer, said in the statement faxed to Reuters.

Ganji's family and rights activists say Ganji has lost more than 52 pounds (24 kg) during his 43 days of hunger strike, which he says is a protest against being detained in spite of his chronic asthma and back pain.

Ebadi said Ganji's health had deteriorated since taken to the hospital last week.

"Ganji's wife says his hunger strike continues in the hospital. He has even lost weight since being hospitalised," Ebadi said.

The investigative journalist was sentenced to six years in prison in 2001 following a series of articles he wrote linking officials to the murder of political dissidents.

The European Union and the
United States have called on Iran to release the maverick journalist.

Outgoing President Mohammad Khatami has urged the judiciary to grant Ganji parole in view of the fact that he has just six months of his sentence left to complete.

The judiciary has stressed it would not yield to international pressures to liberate Ganji. But a senior judiciary official said on Thursday that a pardon for Ganji might be considered.

Ebadi in the letter also criticised the hardline judiciary for refusing to allow Ganji's lawyers to visit him in the in the hospital.

"As Ganji's lawyer I have not been allowed to visit him in the hospital," said Ebadi. "This is unlawful."

There was no immediate official response to the statement.

Iran has a dismal record on press freedoms, closing more than 100 liberal publications and jailing several journalists in a concerted crackdown on reformist media since 2000.