The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

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Amnesty International Challenges Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Freedom of Expression

Iranian Authorities Must Guarantee Fair Trials for Prisoners in Detention, Organization Says


Amnesty International calls on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to immediately retract a statement he made on Wednesday calling it a crime to criticize the outcome of June's presidential election.

Khamenei's statement was broadcast on state television during coverage of a report on his meeting with scientists in Tehran.

"The Ayatollah's statement seeks to criminalize legitimate peaceful dissent and dissatisfaction with the political process," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program. "In dealing with the aftermath of the elections, the Iranian authorities are continuing to commit violation after violation after violation of fundamental human rights. They are trying to muzzle their own people and cow them into silence."

The June 12 election results have been widely disputed, spurring mass demonstrations throughout the country in the following months.

Dozens have been killed by the notorious Basij militia and other government forces, and thousands have been detained, with reports that many were subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Still more have been put on trial, which Amnesty International has condemned as "show trials" and a "mockery of justice."

"Anyone held solely for the peaceful expression of their views concerning the election should be released immediately and unconditionally and all detainees should be protected from torture or other ill-treatment," said Smart.

Amnesty International urges the Iranian authorities to overturn a possible four-year prison sentence imposed on a British embassy worker following the June election.

Hossein Rassam, the chief political analyst at the UK embassy in Tehran, was arrested along with eight other employees, all of whom were later released, and was accused of "fomenting violence" in the months following the presidential election.

Rassam's lawyer is awaiting the trial verdict and can appeal if the prison sentence is confirmed.

Rassam is one of many cases where access to basic human rights has been denied. At least 20 and possibly as many as 60 sentences have been imposed in connection with the unrest, including at least four death sentences.

"The Iranian authorities must overturn all the sentences imposed after the grossly unfair 'show trials'," said Smart. "If eventually imprisoned, Hossein Rassam will become yet another prisoner of conscience in Iran, joining others such as journalists Ali Reza Eshraghi and Masoud Bastani, recently sentenced to prison terms of five-and a-half years and six years respectively."

In a related development, it has been reported that judiciary officials are refusing to allow the lawyer of Iranian-American sociologist Kian Tajbakhsh to file an appeal. Tajbakhsh was sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly trying to overthrow the Iranian government.

Many journalists have been targeted as Iranian authorities continue their crackdown on freedom of expression. Among them is Fariba Pajouh, who began a hunger strike early this week to protest her continued detention. She has been held for the last two months without being charged or tried. She has been joined by fellow journalist Hengameh Shahidi, who began her hunger strike on Tuesday.

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a reformist journalist and head of Iran's Graduates' Association, which actively campaigns for greater human rights in Iran, had been kept in solitary confinement for 45 days without any contact with his family. Only yesterday was he allowed a two-minute phone call with his wife. In August, Zeidabadi's wife said the authorities were trying to break him by keeping him in tomb-like box.
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to charge prisoners being detained and to guarantee fair trials for anyone held for legitimate criminal offenses.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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