2 Journalists held for months without charge in Iran prison

After four months in arbitrary detention, Iranian journalists Sasan Aghaei and Yaghma Fashkhami have been released on bail.

The semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ISNA) reported that Aghaei was freed on December 20, 2017, and Fashkhami on December 21.

Aghaei, the deputy editor-in-chief of the reformist Etemad newspaper, was arrested on August 12, 2017, and held in Evin Prison’s Ward 241, controlled by the judiciary’s intelligence branch.

The reason Aghaei was arrested was not publicly disclosed but a source close to the journalist told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) in August 2017 that Aghaei was accused of working with Amad News, a Telegram channel run by dissidents.

Fashkhami, a reporter for the reformist Roozan newspaper, was arrested on August 21, 2017. He was also suspected of working with Amad News, though no charge was announced in his case either.

In an open letter from Evin Prison published on December 12, 2017, prominent human rights defender Narges Mohammadi criticized the prolonged detention of Aghaei and Fashkhami without charge.

“Is the judiciary seeking to find documents linking them to terrorism or underground activities? If not, why has their temporary detention been extended after four months?” asked Mohammadi. “If there is evidence against them, why haven’t they been put on trial? The more likely scenario is that there is no evidence and the suspects themselves must ‘confess’ so the evidence can be fabricated against them.”

Two members of Parliament had previously called for Aghaei’s release.

“I ask judicial officials to please change his detention order and release him on bail,” said Fatemeh Saeidi, a leading member of the Hope reformist faction, on October 13. “The honorable authorities can avoid prolonging this journalist’s detention.”

With mentioning Aghaei by name, conservative Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari wrote a column in Etemad on October 10 criticizing the judiciary for allowing illegal detentions.

“For instance, a reporter was detained in an improper fashion by the Media Court,” he wrote. “The family has not been told where he is being held. He remains in detention even though according to the law, he was supposed to be charged and released within 24 hours. Then he was held in solitary confinement for a long period of time to make him falsely confess under psychological pressure.”

Aghaei was previously arrested during the state crackdown on the peaceful protests that followed the disputed re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Held for 128 days in Evin Prison, he was sentenced to a year in prison by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court for “propaganda against the state.” However, the sentence was not carried out and Aghaei was released on 50 million tomans ($15,300 USD) bail.

Source » iranhumanrights

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