Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Three journalists arrested

Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of three journalists in Tehran on 1 May, as May Day demonstrations were taking place. “The authorities continue to crack down on journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These arrests, which were made without a warrant and without good reason, were illegal.”

Journalists Alireza Saghafi and Kaveh Mozafari were arrested in the centre of Tehran in the morning, about an hour before the start of the May Day demonstration. Their arrests were witnessed by Saghafi’s wife, who said the authorities used violence to arrest them. The two journalists were transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison the next day.

Saghafi, who edited the magazine Rah Ayandeh (Way of the Future) until the authorities closed it in May 2008, is a member of the Iranian Writers Association. Mozafari is an online journalist who writes for FeministSchool (http://www.feministschool.com/) and Wechange (http://www.4equality.info/), two websites that defend women’s rights. He has been summoned for questioning by the authorities several times in the past.

At around midnight on 1 May, intelligence ministry agents went with Mozafari to his home to conduct a search and while there they arrested his wife, Jelveh Javaheri, who also defends women’s rights online and contributes to the FeministSchool website. Javaheri was previously arrested on 1 December 2007 because of the articles she had posted online and spent a month in detention before being freed on payment of 50 million toman (40,000 euros) in bail.

“The arrests of Mozafari and Javaheri and the search of their home were illegal because of the lack of a warrant and the time at which the ministry’s agents went to the couple’s home,” their lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, said, announcing her intention to file a complaint against the agents concerned.

On 3 May, Javaheri was taken before a judge, who said she could be released if she paid 100 million toman (80,000 euros) in bail. Her lawyer said she refused to sign the bail release form on the ground that she had “committed no crime.”

Saghafi’s lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan, also insisted that his client had been arrested illegally. “As a journalist, he had the right to be near the demonstration’s point of departure,” he said, adding “demonstrating is not a crime in Iran.”