#Human Rights
UN, UNHCHR, US State Department, EU, Navi Pillay, Ban Ki-Moon, European Parliament, AI, HRW

Iranian authorities have sent a celebrated journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi into internal exile after nearly six years in prison, dashing the hopes of his family and displaying continued intolerance for freedom of speech in the Islamic republic.

Zeidabadi, widely respected and seen as upholding the honor of Iran's journalists and intellectuals, was arrested in the 2009 state crackdown that followed the disputed reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad as president in June of that year.

Zeidabadi and scores of other intellectuals and political activists were tried on charges that included plotting to overthrow the Islamic establishment.

Zeidabadi, a former student leader, was sentenced to six years in prison, five years in exile in the northeastern city of Gonabad, and a lifetime ban from journalistic, political, and social activity.

After completing his prison term last week, the 49-year-old father of three was banished to the northeastern city of Gonabad -- and reportedly had to personally cover the cost of his transfer there.

The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the move as a continuation of the persecution of Zeidabadi by Iranian authorities.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the world's most oppressive countries," the head of RSF's Iran desk, Reza Moini, said in a May 22 statement. "It does not limit itself to arbitrary arrests and sentences, but also imposes 'complementary sentences' on its citizens with the aim of silencing them forever.”

Zeidabadi won the 2010 Golden Pen award from the World Association of Newspapers and the 2011 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for his commitment to freedom of expression and democracy and for showing courage in the face of persecution.

Media reports said Zeidabadi was tortured in prison and held in solitary confinement for several weeks.

It is widely believed that Zeidabadi's criticism of Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and of the supreme leader's lack of accountability, is among the main reasons for his arrest and the pressure against him.

Zeidabadi's association with opposition figure and defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi is also believed to have angered Iranian authorities.

Karoubi, an outspoken critic of the Iranian establishment, has been under house arrest since February 2011.
SOURCE: Persian Letters Blog, RFE/RL


Ahmad Zeidabadi is an Iranian journalist and political analyst who was imprisoned following Iran's disputed presidential election in June 2009. He was tortured and beaten violently in prison in order to give forced confessions. He was held in solitary confinement for 35 days after his arrest in a coffin-like cell only 1.5m long.

Mr. Zeidabadi was tried in August 2009, along with more than 40 other journalists and 100 prominent supporters of the country's pro-reform movement, on charges of plotting to overthrow the clerical theocracy with a "soft revolution" and was harshly sentenced to six years in prison,5 years in exile and a lifetime ban on practicing his profession as a journalist. One week after his trial began, Mr. Zeidabadi went on a hunger strike to protest his detention, and was hospitalized for 17 days when he was found unconscious in his cell.

Mr. Zeidabadi is currently serving time under very difficult conditions among dangerous common criminals at Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, which lacks prisoner classification. According to his wife, prison visits are very difficult and their three children have to spend hours to visit their father through a booth for 15 minutes and get the opportunity to do so once every 3 or 4 months.

I am writing to express my concern about Ahmad Zeidabadi, the Iranian journalist and political analyst who was tried in August 2009 and sentenced 6 years in prison, 5 years in exile and a ban on working as a journalist.

Mr. Zeidabadi was being held in prison--and now is being held in Soviet-style "internal exile"-- solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom expression and association.

It must be pointed out that collecting and publishing information about human rights violations is a right guaranteed under Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran signed. This includes “the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of... choice”.

I therefore ask you to take prompt action by urging the Iranian government to release Mr. Zeidabadi immediately and unconditionally as he is a prisoner of conscience.

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The Free Journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, Transferred From Prison To Exile petition to UN, UNHCHR, US State Department, EU, Navi Pillay, Ban Ki-Moon, European Parliament, AI, HRW was written by John S. Burke and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.