Tuesday, February 15

HARSH TREATMENT OF POLITICAL PRISONERS HEIGHTENS IN IRAN

The prospects for Iranian blogger-journalist Farouz Farzami, who I have been writing about since this past Saturday and who awaits trial in Iran for publishing posts critical of her government, remain bleak. The situation in Iran vis-a-vis peaceful activists, bloggers and journalists has deteriorated this year with the repressive crackdown of 2004 continuing, but with prison sentences becoming notably harsher. Human Rights Watch, in this article of February 9, 2005, reported that long prison sentences are being meted out for activists espousing "peaceful political views," following secret, patently "unfair trials of critics." Worse, those convicted for what they say or write are being confined with hard-core, dangerous criminals who brutalize them.

One chilling example cited in this article:

In one recent case, Heshmatallah Tabarzadi, a student leader, was sentenced by Tehran's revolutionary court on December 26th (2004) to sixteen years in prison for "propaganda against the regime" and acting against national security. Human Rights Watch said that his trial was held behind closed doors and in the absence of his lawyer. The judge's final ruling cites "interviews with foreign radio," "writing letters to the Leader," and "disseminating statements against the regime" as the basis for the harsh sentence.


Joe Stork, Washington D.C.-based director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division, is quoted as saying (with respect to that outrageous sentence): "None of these activities are crimes in any recognized sense." He further remarked: "Iranians should be able to speak their minds without putting their lives at risk."

Stork concluded: "A minimum requirement for improving the human rights conditions in Iran is the unconditional release of all prisoners held solely for their political beliefs."