Iran - Supreme court decision upholding death sentence for Kurdish journalist should be "taken seriously"

    MONTREAL, Nov. 9 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today condemned
the supreme court's decision to uphold the death sentence for Kurdish-Iranian
journalist Adnan Hassanpour for "spying." The ruling was issued on 22 October
but was not revealed until this week.
    The court quashed the conviction of another journalist convicted in the
same case, Abdolvahed "Hiva" Botimar, on the grounds of procedural
irregularity. Botimar had also been under sentence of death.
    "We have been waiting for than six months for the supreme court to decide
whether to reopen the case against Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi's
alleged murderers, but it took the court only a few weeks to uphold
Hassanpour's death sentence, so the judicial system clearly continues to have
a pro-government bias," Reporters Without Borders said.
    "We appeal to the international community to take every possible action
to get this journalist released," the press freedom organisation added. "This
sentence should be taken very seriously as Iran has already executed more than
300 people since the start of the year."
    Saleh Nikbakht, one of the lawyers representing the two journalists, was
notified on 5 November of the court's decision although he was not given the
details of the ruling. He said Hassanpour had been found guilty of "espionage"
because he had allegedly "revealed the location of military sites and
established contacts with the US foreign affairs ministry."
    He added that the court overturned Botimar's conviction on the grounds of
a "procedural irregularity," and sent his case back to the same revolutionary
court in Marivan (in the Kurdish northwest of Iran) that convicted him and
Hassanpour on 16 July on charges of spying, "subversive activity against
national security" and "separatist propaganda."
    Nikbakht told Reporters Without Borders: "This sentence is not only
contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international
conventions ratified by Iran, but it also contrary to Islamic law and the laws
of the Islamic Republic."
    Hassanpour, 27, and Botimar, 29, used to work for the weekly Asou,
covering the sensitive Kurdish issue, until the newspaper was banned by the
Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in August 2005. Hassanpour also
worked for foreign news media including Voice of America and Radio Farda.
    An ardent advocate of Kurdish cultural rights, Hassanpour was arrested
outside his home on 25 January and was taken to Mahabad, where he was not
allowed to receive visits from his family or his lawyer. Botimar, an active
member of the environmental NGO Sabzchia, was arrested on 25 December.
    For the past several months, Hassanpour and Botimar have been held in
Sanandaj prison, where their lawyers have not been allowed to meet with them
in private in order to inform them of the supreme court's decision.

For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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