Clampdown on freedom of expression

Akbar Ganji faces 10 charges relating to articles he wrote implicating senior Iranian political figures including Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the 1998 murders of a number of intellectuals and writers, and statements he made at a conference on 'Iran after the elections' held in Berlin on 7-9 April. The conference received enormous publicity within Iran, and some religious figures have accused some of those who attended of apostasy, or turning away from Islam.

Akbar Ganji's arrest comes during a mounting clampdown on freedom of expression in Iran which led to the interrogation and arrest of journalists and writers and the closure of newspapers. A warrant for the arrest of Hojjatoleslam Yousefi Eshkevari has also been issued by the Special Court for the Clergy in connection with statements he is alleged to have made at the Berlin conference.

The publisher and editor of the now-banned newspaper Neshat (Joy), Latif Safari and Mashallah Shamsolva'ezin, have recently been imprisoned in connection with articles questioning the use of the death penalty. Publisher Abdollah Nouri was imprisoned in November 1999 in connection with articles in the now banned newspaper Khordad.

These arrests and the closure this week of 13 newspapers and periodicals in Iran, including Fath (Victory), Asr-e Azadegan (Era of the Free) and Iran-e Farda (Iran of Tomorrow) mark a serious escalation in the attack on freedom of expression. The publications were ordered to be closed following concerted public condemnation of certain sections of the press by the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran .

Amnesty International considers these arrests and the closure of newspapers as a serious violation of freedom of expression and other basic human rights, which contradict the commitments made by Iran to the international community.

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