Iran - Cyber-journalist arrested in Qom for posting dissident ayatollah's sermon online



    MONTREAL, Oct. 13 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders condemns
theologian and online journalist Mojtaba Lotfi's arrest on 8 October for
posting a sermon by Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri - a well-known opponent of
the Islamic revolution's Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - online. In his
sermon, Montazeri criticised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for saying Iran was
"the world's freest country" (http://www.amontazeri.com/farsi/default.asp).
    "No, Mr. President, Iran is not the world's freest country and Lotfi's
arrest just for publishing comments made in public is evidence of this,"
Reporters Without Borders said. "This decision is unjust and highlights the
government's desire to suppress online dissent, especially in the run-up to
next year's president election."
    The press freedom organisation added: "Websites and blogs are the main
outlets used by the opposition to get its ideas across, as it is banned from
publishing its views in the governmental newspapers. As well as a human rights
outrage, Mojtaba's arrest in an unacceptable method of intimidating the
blogosphere."
    The day after Lotfi's arrest, intelligence ministry officials searched
his home in the holy city of Qom, in the centre of the country, on the orders
of a special court for the clergy, confiscating his computer's hard drive and
various personal documents.
    An article in the pro-government newspaper Jomhouri Eslami
(http://www.jomhourieslami.com) on 11 October said "Mojtaba Lotfi is one of
the carriers who have written and disseminated false information via the
anti-revolutionary media. This arrest is not politically motivated and is due
solely to the illegality of the deeds of which he is accused."
    Formerly a journalist with the pro-reform daily Khordad, which the
authorities closed in 2000, Lotfi was first arrested in May 2004 in Qom after
posting an article entitled "Respect for human rights in cases involving the
clergy" on www.naqshineh.com, a website about Qom. He was sentenced in August
2004 to three years and ten months in prison for disseminating "lies" online.
He was later released on bail pending the outcome of an appeal hearing, for
which a date was never set.
    He has lung problems caused by injuries sustained during the Iran-Iraq
war of 1980-88.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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