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Iran Rejects UN Rapporteur Visit, Continues to Crack Down on Free Expression

Tuesday 5 July 2011


See online : Reporters without Borders

Arbitrary arrests are continuing in Iran even as the regime has refused to accept a visit by Ahmed Shaheed, the person appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as special rapporteur on the human right situation in Iran. Three journalists and a netizen have been arrested in the past few weeks and others have been summoned for interrogations.

The three journalists include two women – a documentary filmmaker and a sports photographer. The third is the editor of a literary magazine in the north of a country. The netizen is a woman who is an online defender of the families of political prisoners who were arbitrarily executed in the 1980s.

“The human rights situation in Iran keeps on deteriorating,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We continue to see suspicious deaths of detainees and activists and mistreatment in various prisons, especially Evin and Raja’i Shahr. Prisoners of conscience are in constant danger, as the families of many detainees said in a letter to the special rapporteur.

“We urge the Iranian authorities to cooperate with the United Nations without trying to impose any conditions and to facilitate the special rapporteur’s visit. The international community must pressure the Iranian authorities to accept its prerogatives.”

The latest journalist to be arrested is documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi, who was picked up at her Tehran home by intelligence ministry officials on 26 June and was taken to Tehran’s Evin prison. She was previously arrested with fellow filmmaker Jafar Panahi during a ceremony for the victims of repression in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra cemetery on 29 July 2009 and was held for 19 days.

Since then, she had been subjected to a great deal of harassment and had been summoned and interrogated on several occasions by intelligence ministry officials. She had alluded to the possibility of being arrested again in a message to the Cannes film festival last May that was read out by Greek filmmaker Costa Gavras: “I am a woman, I am a film-maker, two sufficient reasons to be guilty in this country.”

Maryam Majd, a sports photographer and contributor to several newspapers was arrested at her home by intelligence ministry officials on 17 June, on the eve of her planned departure for Germany to write a book about women’s soccer at the invitation of Petra Landers, a member of the German national team. She was also taken to Evin prison. The reason for her arrest has not been revealed.

The other journalist arrested in the past four weeks is Said Mohamadi, also known as Moghanli, who writes for Azeri-language newspapers and edits the literary magazine Yashagh. He was picked up on 8 June in the northern province of Ardebil and was transferred to intelligence ministry headquarters in the nearby city of Tabriz. He was previously arrested with three other journalists in Tehran on 10 September 2008 and was freed two months later on 50 million toman (45,000 euros) in bail.

The online activist is Mansoureh Behkish, 58, who was arrested in Tehran on 12 June and was transferred to Evin prison’s section 209. She had six close relatives (four brothers, a sister and a brother-in-law) who lost their lives as a result of their opposition to the regime and she has been fighting for years to establish the truth about the executions of political prisoners.

She is a member of the “Mothers of Laleh Park” and the “Mothers of Khavaran” (named after the south Tehran cemetery used as mass grave for political prisoners who were executed en masse in 1988). The families who belong to these organizations are harassed by the authorities for demanding justice and for holding ceremonies commemorating the deaths of their loved-ones.

Behkish, who posts articles on various websites about these groups, their ceremonies and the harassment to which they are subjected, has herself been constantly harassed and has been arrested several times. She was last arrested on 9 January 2010 along with 33 other relatives of victims during a demonstration in Tehran’s Laleh Park. She was banned from leaving the country when freed on 17 March.

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