Iran - Journalist from the Arab minority sentenced to five years in prison



    MONTREAL, Aug. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today called
for the case to be dropped against journalist Yosef Azizi Banitruf, sentenced
to five years in jail after he exposed excessive use of force against
demonstrators from the Arab community who clashed with security forces in
Khuzestan in south-west Iran.
    The trial of Azizi Banitrouf, a member of Iran's Arab minority, was held
over almost two years. The Tehran revolutionary court handed down its verdict
against him on 20 August for "acting against national security", "incitement
to rebellion" and "relations with foreign officials". He is free while
awaiting an appeal.
    The freelance journalist was arrested on 25 April 2005. His home was
searched and working papers seized. He was released on bail to await trial on
28 June 2005.
    "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is systematically exploiting the judicial
system to crack down on journalists from the minority communities, for whom
they often act as spokesperson," the worldwide press freedom organisation
said.
    "Six of the seven journalists currently in prison in the country are of
Kurdish or Arab origin. This outrageous gagging policy should be condemned by
all those committed to free expression for Iranians," it added.
    Interviews given by Aziz Banitruf to foreign media and interviews he
carried out himself with officials in the Arab world were produced in court as
evidence against him.
    He worked for 12 years for the daily Hamshari, owned by the mayor of
Tehran, but was sacked when Ahmadinejad was elected the capital's mayor in
2003 and conservatives were put in charge of the paper. He now works for
several national publications and continues to contribute to foreign media. He
is also a member of the board of the Iranian Writers' Association.
    The Tehran revolutionary court in June 2008 imposed an 11-year jail
sentence on Iranian journalist of Kurdish origin, Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand,
for "acting against national security" after he founded an organisation to
defend human rights in Kurdistan. He was arrested in July 2007 and has since
been imprisoned in Evin jail, Tehran.
    Said Matinpour of the weekly Yarpagh, one of the leading Azeri community
newspapers, was in June 2008 given an eight-year suspended sentence, also by a
revolutionary court in the capital, for "having dealings with foreigners" and
for "publicity against the regime".
    In yet another case, a journalist working for the official news agency
ISNA, Mahboubeh Karami, was released on 26 August 2008 after paying bail of
one hundred million toumens (80,000 euros) following her arrest on 13 June
this year after criticising police brutality against demonstrators on a bus in
Tehran. She is facing charges of "damaging national security" and "publicity
against the regime".




For further information:

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

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