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Iran: Journalist Sasan Aghaei held in solitary confinement for two weeks

2017-08-31

Journalist Sasan Aghaei, deputy editor of the daily “Etemad”, has been held in solitary confinement in Iran for over two weeks. He was detained by security forces at the newspaper’s offices in Tehran on 12 August 2017. Later, they searched Aghaei's home and transferred him to Tehran's Evin prison.

The charges against Aghaei are not clear as no official warrant was issued against him. After three days, his family was informed that he was ordered by the Media Court to be detained for a month.

Aghaei has been arrested several times previously, including in 2009 during the crackdown following the disputed re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was held in solitary confinement for 40 days following his arrest in 2009, and then sentenced to one year in prison in a brief trial for signing a letter along with hundreds of journalists, students, activists and others who referred to the election as a “coup”.

Evin prison has a long history of brutality and is infamous for ill-treatment against journalists and human rights defenders. Many journalists are being detained or even face a tragic end in Evin prison like Zahra "Ziba" Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist, who, according to the medical examiner, was raped and tortured to death in 2003. Journalist Ehsan Mazandarani is on hunger strike in Evin prison after his detention and his wife reported that his health is deteriorating rapidly. He previously staged a hunger strike in 2016. Hengameh Shahidi is another citizen journalists whose physical condition deteriorated in Evin Prison and she is also on hunger strike because of ill treatment and arbitrary detention.     

Press freedom groups estimate that over two dozen journalists and citizen journalists are currently detained in Iran, making it one of the top jailers of journalists in the world.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern at the arrest and detention of Sasan Aghaei particularly due to the solitary confinement. GCHR is also concerned that citizen journalists Ehsan Mazandarani and Hengameh Shahidi are being held with no declared charges and are at risk of dying while they are on hunger strike. GCHR expresses further concern at the on-going targeting of journalists, citizen journalists and human rights defenders solely as a direct result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

GCHR urges the authorities in Iran to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Sasan Aghaei, Ehsan Mazandarani and Hengameh Shahidi and ensure that they have contact with their families;
  2. Ensure immediate access to medical treatment for Ehsan Mazandarani and Hengameh Shahidi; and
  3. Guarantee that Sasan Aghaei, Ehsan Mazandarani and Hengameh Shahidi, as well as all journalists, citizen journalists and human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including security harassment and arbitrary detention. 

 GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”