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Iran Special: The List of the 100+ Journalists Detained Since the 2009 Elections --- Part 1 (Alinejad/Irani)

Since the disputed June 2009 Presidential Election, EA has periodically featured the names of journalists on Arshama3's Blog --- a list which is up to 70 entries.

Now another record of those reporters who have been imprisoned --- or who are free on heavy bail but always threatened with a summons back to detention --- has been compiled by Masih Alinejad and translated into English by Azita Irani. There is also the note of at least one journalist who was slain during the initial demonstrations after the election.

We will be presenting the more than 100 entries on a rolling basis over the next few days. And we will endeavour, with the help of Arshama3 and Alinejad, to keep the list up to date.

(Note: comments on an earlier version of this article can be found in the previous entry.)

See also The List of the 100+ Journalists Detained Since the 2009 Elections --- Part 2

1. Alireza Eftekhari

A young and promising Iranian journalist who was killed on June 15th, 2009 during the mayhem of the post-election street protests, 3 days after the election results were announced.

The 29 year-old Eftekhari was one of the participants in the protests walking among the ominous sea of people on that fateful day…

It was the fatal blow of the baton that landed on his head cracking his skull open and leading to internal brain hemorrhaging that claimed his young life…

His dead body was delivered to his family on July 12, 2009.  But no answer was ever given by any officer of the Islamic Republic as to why and how he was killed.

Eftekhari was the editor of the economic newspaper, Abrar Eghtesadi.  According to Reporters Without Border, Alireza Eftekhari had been actively working with that organization for more than five years.   

2. Ahmad Zeidabadi

This seasoned analyst and journalist was arrested in front of his children on 14 June 2009.  He had supported Mehdi Karroubi during the elections. 

His wife, Mahdieh has repeatedly spoken in the media about the tortures and pressures to which her journalist husband has been subjected.

Mahdieh reports that her husband had been forced to spend 17 days in a coffin-like solitary cell of 1 by 1.5 meters (3 x 3.5 feet) without any contact with the outside world.  Zeibabadi, who has not been allowed a single day of furlough, has been transferred to Rajai-Shahr Prison and held amongst hardcore criminals, thieves and drug smugglers. 

Zeidabadi is the Chairman of the Graduates Association and a board member of the Iranian Journalists Union.  The most significant of his "crimes", according to his wife, was his open letters addressed to and highly critical of Ayatollah Khamenei.  The Court of Appeals upheld his sentence of six years in prison, five years exile in Gonabad, a permanent ban from political and journalistic activity, and prohibition from membership in, supporting, interviewing, speech or analysis of any party in written or verbal form.

3. Bahman Ahmadi Amoui

Author of Politico-Economics of the Islamic Republic and How Men in the Islamic Republic Became Technocrats, Ahmadi Amoui was arrested on 20 June 2009 while participating in peaceful protests.  He is a seasoned economic journalist, writing for newspapers such as Jame’eh, Sobhe Emrooz, Norouz, Shargh, Vaghaye Etefaghieh, and Sarmayeh.  

Amoui is married to Jila Bani Yaghoob, one of the most prominent journalists of Iran, who also spent a period of time in prison after the 2009 election.  Amouie, kept incommunicado in ward 209 of Evin Prison, has been allowed one leave of a few days.

Bani Yaghoob wrote,  “On the scheduled day for his return to prison, Bahman received a call from prison officials telling him to report back to the prison immediately.  Meanwhile my hearing day was set for the following day.  All that crossed Bahman’s mind to say in response to the caller was: 'No not today.  I will return tomorrow instead.'  He insisted on accompanying me to the court the next day, at all costs.”

Despite enormous pressures throughout his time in prison, Amoui has continued to resist and refused to submit to false televised confessions against himself or the Green Movement.  Twice he has gone on a hunger strike. 

One of the most items used as evidence against Amoui was a poem from the renowned poet Ferdowsi’s book, Epic of Kings, which Amoui had published on the Khordaad website.  He was ultimately charged with propagating against the regime and threatening national security and civil order, as well as insulting the elected President. He was sentenced to 7 years and 4 months in prison and 34 lashes, later reduced to 5 years by the Court of Appeals. 

4. Masoud Bastani

After the arrest of his wife, Mahsa Amrabadi, in the tumultuous aftermath of the elections, Masoud Bastani reported to officials on 5 August 2009, hoping to obtain her release. Instead, he was detained and transferred to Rajai-Shahr Prison in the city of Karaj, northwest of Tehran.

Bastani was the Chief Editor of websites such as Jomhouriat, and he worked with Shargh and Kargozaran newspapers.

Hoping for the pardon of his wife, he appeared in the August 2009 "show trial" in Tehran and gave a televised confession. Subsequently, he has written several letters from Rajai Shahr complaining about prison conditions and his illness. On one occasion in the meeting hall of prison, he was reportedly beaten by prison staff, as his wife and mother watched in horror. He has been repeatedly put in solitary confinement.

Accused of propagating against the regime and plotting a civil disturbance, Bastani was sentenced to six years in prison.

Bastani was also imprisioned at age 24, when he was reporter for the weekly periodica Neda-ye Eslahaat, and three years later for pursuing the case of the well-known political prisoner Akbar Ganji.

5. Isa Saharkhiz

Isa Saharkhiz,whose open and critical letters to Ayatollah Khamenei have jeopardized his safety, was arrested in July 2009. Saharkhiz was allegedly beaten by security forces, leaving him in a prison cell with broken ribs and without medical attention for some time. He too was moved to Rajai-Shahr prison in Karaj.

When he was initially summoned for questioning, by Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi’s staff, Saharkhiz fled Tehran and lived into hiding. But according to him, special communications equipment provided by Nokia Corporation helped the regime trace and find him.

Isa Saharkhiz was head of the Press Department in the Ministry of Culture and Education, during the Presidency of Mohammad Khatami. He is one of the founders of Freedom of Press Association and the former managing director of the now-closed Economic News and of the monthly periodical Aftaab.

Saharkhiz, charged with propaganda against the regime and disseminating false information to the foreign press, was sentenced to three years in prison and a five-year ban from political activity and journalism.

6. Mohammad Davari

Mohammad Davari, journalist and chief editor of Etemad Melli, helped film and document the stories of detainees who had been raped and tortured after the 2009 Presidential election as part of Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi's campaign for justice. On 8 September 2009, Davari was arrested, after Karroubi’s letter about the torture of prisoners at the Kahrizak detention centre was sent to the head of Assembly of Experts.

In a letter to the Tehran Prosecutor General, Mehdi Karroubi took full responsibility for all the documents and videos and said that Davari was solely the videographer in the interviews and had no other role in the rest of the material. Nevertheless, Davari was charged with propagating against the regime and received a five-year prison sentence, two of which he has served without a single day of furlough.

Davari's family had no news of him during the first eight months of his jail term. In a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, his family expressed grave concern over Davari’s conditions, claiming he was tortured and pressured to make televised confessions against Karroubi and to denounce the validity of the documents about prison rapes.

Mohammad Davari was a teacher working for the Ministry of Education, but after his arrest, his salary was cut off. Due to physical and financial difficulties, his elderly and ill mother who lives in Khorasan in northeast Iran, is unable to visit her son in Evin Prison in Tehran. She has repeatedly pleaded with the officials to allow her telephone access, but hone privileges have been denied to certain prisoners held at Evin for almost a year. She has said:

I have done everything in my power so far. We have repeatedly requested from several Human Rights organizations to investigate my son’s condition in prison, to no avail. I have spoken with the officials many times about my son’s situation and his discontinued wages and my own psychological and financial hardship. Alas, the officials don’t want to hear me out or don’t want to do anything. “Every door is closed on me.

7. Mehdi Mahmoudian

Journalist and political activist Mehdi Mahmoudian, arrested in 2009 and charged with propaganda against the state, has been sentenced to five years in prison. He has spent the last two years in prison with no furlough.

In 2007 Mahmoudian wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei to alert the Supreme Leader about the violations of prisoners’ rights at the Kahrizak detention centre. He cited many accounts of inhumane and criminal behaviour, including beatings, rapes, and psychological abuse, by prison officials against young men labelled as “gang members and thugs”

He never received an answer.

Last April, Mahmoudian wrote another letter to Ayatollah Khamenei informing him about the rape of prisoners at Rajai Shahr Prison.

In an interview with Rah-e Sabz, Mahmoudian’s mother spoke of the pain and torture to which Mahmoudian is subjected: “Mehdi was kept for 8 hours with only an undergarment on, outside in the 10 degrees below zero at Evin prison.....As a result he contracted a lung infection and respiratory problems among other ailments such as nosebleeds and kidney disease. He has fainted several times so far.”

8. Ali Malihi

Malihi is a young journalist for Shargh, Etemade Melli, the weekly periodical Shahrvand Emrooz, and Irandokht and who is a member of the Policy Committee and head of Public Relations of the Graduate Association. He was arrested in February 2009, with his family was kept in the dark for days after his detention. After one year in prison, he was allowed a three-day furlough.

Charged with assembly and propaganda against the regime, participating in illegal groups, publishing false information, and insulting the President, he was sentenced to four years in prison and a $100,000 fine. He has gone on hunger strike twice while in prison.

9. Hengameh Shahidi

Shahidi, an advisor to Mehdi Karroubi during his Presidential campaign, was arrested on 30 June.

Shahidi, claiming psychological torture in prison, finally went on hunger strike. She was subsequently transferred to Evin Prison’s infirmary and then temporarily released due to poor health. She was re-arrested on 25 February 2010 and began a six-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the regime”, “collusion against national security”, and “insulting the leadership”.

10. Keyvan Samimi

A pioneers in Iranian journalism, Keyvan Samimi was arrested on 13 June at his home and sent to Evin Prison. He was kept in solitary confinement for the first four months of his detention. He went on multiple hunger strikes, one demanding improvement of conditions for other prisoners.

Samimi is the former editor of the now-defunct periodical Nameh (Letters) and a member of organisation such as Defense of Press Freedom, the National Peace Society; and the Committee for Investigation of Mass Due-Process Violations. Charged with “collusion against national security” and “agitating the public”, he was sentenced to six years in prison and a 15- year ban from all political, civic, and cultural activities.

The 66 year-old journalist is close to the Nationalist-Religious group.

11. Siamak Ghaderi

Ghaderi was a reporter for the State outlet Islamic Republic News Agency. His criticisms of the management at IRNA led to his arrest at his home on 5 August. Since then, he has been held at Ward 209 of Evin Prison.

Ghaderi had launched a weblog entitled “Our IRNA”, considering the news agency in relation to the post-election events and publishing independent reports. He was fired after 18 years at IRNA before his arrest.

Charged with “Propaganda against the regime”, “agitating the public”, and “publishing lies”, Ghaderi was sentenced to four years in prison, a fine, and 60 lashes.

Ghaderi is also noteworthy for his interviews with Iranian gays and lesbians, soon after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University in the US where he famously claimed, “We have no homosexuals in Iran.”

12. Massoud Lavasani

Journalist and blogger Lavasani was arrested during the post-election street protests in 2009. He has been kept in difficult conditions but was eventually allowed short leaves to visit his toddler child.

Lavasani was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison and a permanent ban from practicing his career, reduced on appeal to six years in prison and a 10-year ban.

Lavasani has worked with newspapers such as Aftab Yazd, Iran, Khabar, Tehran Today, Hashahri, Shargh, Kargara, Etemade Melli, Fars News Agency, and Kheradnameh.

13. Ehsan Mehrabi

Mehrabi has worked for years with publications such as Etemade Melli and Farhikhtegan, working as a Parliamentary reporter at the time of his arrest. He was charged with “propaganda against the regime” and was sentenced to one year in prison.

The 35-year-old journalist is among the witnesses who signed the letter written by 62 prisoners testifying that fellow detainee Hoda Saber, who died from complications caused by hunger strike, was severely beaten before he was taken to hospital.

14. Emaduddin Baghi

Renowned journalist and human rights activist Baghi was arrested in December 2009 following the BBC Persian broadcast of his interview with the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and threatening national security, but Baghi stated later that his interrogations in prison primarily revolved around his views on capital punishment and his work with various human rights organisations.

Baghi was sentenced in September 2010 to six years in prison, added to a previous one-year sentence and a five-year ban on journalistic and social activity.

Since April 2010, Baghi has been in and out of prison on numerous occasions and summoned for questioning over 20 times.

Emaduddin Baghi is the founder and president of the Prisoners Defense Committee. He has authored a textbook on contemporary history, taught in Iranian high schools in the late 1990s; however, his best-seller, Iran’s Tragic Democracy, and several of his other books are now banned in Iran.

15. Mashallah Shamsolvaezin

Renowned senior journalist Shamsolvaezin was arrested by security forces in the middle of the night in his home on 28 December 2009, following the opposition's Ashura rallies.

Shamsolvaezin is the Vice President of the Journalists Uniona and a spokesperson for Defense of Press Freedom. On the night of his arrest, he reportedly challenged the police, demanding a warrant with his name on it, before he would let them take him to prison. After an hour of arguments, four more policemen came to his door and threatened to take him by force if he continued to resist arrest.

Shamsolvaezin was released on bail after two months and posting of bail, but he was sentenced him to 16 months in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “insulting the leadership”. He returned to Evin prison in July 2011.

16. Abdolreza Tajik

Tajik, a human rights activist and journalist for reformist newspapers, has been arrested three times since the 2009 elections. He was imprisoned from 14 June to 29 July 2009 and from 28 December to 1 March 2010. Arrested again on 12 June 2010, he was sentenced to five years in prison for membership in the Human Rights Defense Committee and an additional year for propaganda against the regime.

Tajik has been the head of the political section of Etemaad, Kargozaran, Shargh, and the Iranian Labor News Agency. He has also worked for Khordaad, Fath, Bahar, Hambastegi, Hamshahri, Tose-eh, and Seday-e Edalat.

Tajik's sister Parvin has told the media about the difficult conditions and the pressures that her brother was facing, claiming on one occasion that he was raped by the security forces. The interviews led to the extra year on Tajik's sentence for "polluting the public mind against the regime".

17. Jila Bani Yaghoob

Bani Yaghoob and her husband Bahman Ahmadi Amoui (see #3 on list) were arrested on 20 June after protesting the outcome of the Presidential election. Security forces showed up at midnight and searched the couple’s home for two hours.

Bani Yaghoob, who has been questioned and detained frequently during her career as a journalist, was sentenced to one year in prison and a 30-year ban from journalism. Despite the sentence, Zhila continues to write in her blogs about the prison conditions of her husband Bahman as well as other detainees. Her open letters to the head of judiciary and members of the judicial system, detailing the demeaning ways in which she and her husband were treated by the security personnel, have been published by opposition outlets.

Bani Yaghoob is the director of social services and the Editor-in-Chief of the Iranian Women’s Association website. She was awarded the Courage In Journalism prize by the International Women's Media Foundation in 2009.

18. Mohammad Nourizad

Nourizad is a writer, film director, playwright, blogger and conservative journalist who joined the opposition after the 2009 election.

Nourizad was arrested on 20 November 2009 after he had written letters to the Supreme Leader to protest post-election abuses. His family publicly complained about his beatings in Evin Prison. This led to a meeting between the family and Tehran’s prosecutor, but the beatings allegedly continued.

Because of the explicit criticism of the Supreme Leader in letters that found their way from Evin Prison to the media, Nourizad was confined to a solitary cell, where he was allegedly subjected to repeated and violent beatings by prison guards which led to his hunger strikes.

Nourizad was charged with “propaganda against and tarnishing the 30 year-old image of the regime”, and "insulting the Supreme Leader, the head of judiciary, and the President”. He was sentenced to three years and 91 days in prison, plus 50 lashes for insulting the Friday Prayer Imam of the holy city of Mashhad. The Court of Appeals upheld the sentence.

Nourizad was released after nearly two years in detention. He has continued writing letters to Ayatollah Khamenei even after his release, only this time with far more blistering language.

19. Sasaan Aghaii

Journalist, blogger, and human rights activist Aghaii was arrested on 22 November 2009, as his home was searched and his personal possessions, including a computer, were confiscated. He was allowed to contact his family for the first time after 16 days in detention, informing them that his interrogation process would continue for another 14 days. Throughout this time, his family and friends had no information about his whereabouts.

Aghaii was a columnist at newspapers such as Fahikhtegan, Etemade Melli, Tose-eh, and Mardomsalari. For eight years he had also criticised the regime in his weblog.

After his arrest, Aghaii spent 40 days in solitary confinement in Ward 209 and 130 days in the general Ward 350, before he was released in April 2010 on bail. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and sentenced to one year in prison.

20. Mahsa Amrabadi

Amrabadi was arrested two days after the disputed Presidential election in June 2009 and released after 2 1/2 months on $200,000 bail. Her family was kept in the dark about her whereabouts for days after her arrest; when her husband Masoud Bastani (see case 4) finally began investigating her case, he too was arrested and jailed.

Amrabadi was charged with propaganda against the regime and insulting the President. She was later acquitted of the latter charge.

21. Saeed Laylaz

Journalist and economic expert Laylaz has been among the harshest critics of President Ahamdinejad’s economic policies, and on the day after the 2009 election, he boldly called the official result “A Historic Selection by the Supreme Leader of Iran”. He was arrested days later. His whereabouts remained unknown to his family until his wife announced that she had seen him four months later in the Revolutionary Court. Laylaz was kept in solitary confinement for 100 days.

During the “Show Trials” in Tehran in August 2009, Laylaz was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “possessing classified documents". He received an additional year in prison for participating in the march of 15 June 2009.

Laylaz sat on the board of directors of the newspaper Sarmayeh, which was closed down after the election.

22. Mohammad Ghouchani

Ghouchani was arrested during the protests of 20 June 2009. While in detention, the Etemade Melli newspaper for which he worked for was closed down.

Ghouchani was released at 2 a.m. on 9 October, after 131 days in solitary confinement and an appearance in the Tehran “Show Trials”, and dropped in the middle of the streets of Tehran.

Ghouchani is best known for his work at Shargh, Ham-Mihan. and Shahrvand, but he has also worked for Jame’eh, Asr-e Azadegan, and Neshat. He was previously arrested in 2001 and jailed for 36 days for “publishing lies” and “blasphemy".

23. Maziar Bahari

Documentary film maker and Canadian-Iranian journalist Bahari, was arrested and imprisonment soon after the 2009 election. Bahari had filmed the Basij militia shooting into the crowd during the 15 June protests, documenting several protesters who were killed on the streets. Subjected to enormous pressure in detention, he was forced to appear before the cameras of national TV and radio and make a false confession against himself.

A journalist for Newsweek, Bahari was released in October 2009, after pressure from the international community. After his release, he appeared on various media outlets in the West and revealed the means and methods of torture employed by the Islamic regime.

24. Hossein Nouraninejad

Nouraninejad, the head of Jebhe-ye Mosharekat Melli Eslami (Islamic Coalition Front), was arrested on 17 September 2009 and spent one year in prison. He was a staff reporter at the Iranian Labor News Agency and reformist newspapers. After the Presidential election, he played an active role in organising religious events for reformist groups, particularly in connection with political prisoners.

Nouraninejad was one of 16 political prisoners at Evin Prison who participated in hunger strikes protesting the ill treatment by prison guards. His mother and his wife, Parastou Sarmadi, repeatedly complained to the media about the prisoners’ situation, until the security forces attempted to arrest Nouraninejad's mother. They forced her to sign a consent form to her detention if she continued to protest the imprisonment of her son by talking to the press.

More to come....

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