The world's largest journalists' group today condemned the Iranian judicial authorities for starting closed and unannounced proceedings, on March 7th, against a seventy-three-year-old Iranian journalist. "Siamak Pourzand is being denied his basic right to a fair trial", said Aidan White, General Secretary of International Federation of Journalists, "This man is being treated appallingly. This case exposes the inhumane and ugly face of Iranian justice."
Mr. Pourzand has had no access to lawyers or to medical assistance during his four months of incommunicado detention. The Iranian authorities have given no reason to hold Mr. Pourzand, according to Human Rights Watch in New York.
On March 8th, Pourzand briefly telephoned his youngest daughter in Washington, D.C. and, according to her testimony, asked that his family treat him as if he were dead. He also confirmed that his trial had started.
Siamak Pourzand heads the Artistic and Cultural Complex in Tehran and has also worked as cultural commentator with several reformist newspapers. All of them have since been closed.
"This case highlights the struggle between journalists and others who support political reform and those intolerant religious leaders," said Aidan White. IFJ leaders on March 8th gave renewed support to efforts of the Iranian Association of Journalists, an IFJ affiliate, whose members have been in the forefront of campaigns to create a democratic and open society in which freedom of expression is respected. "The Siamak Pourzand case symbolises the struggle for freedom in which journalists are engaged, said White. "We will give solidarity and support to all their efforts."
The prosecution is a continuation of a pattern of repression that has gathered momentum since February's 2000 parliamentary elections. Since then independent newspapers have been closed down and leading editors and journalists have been jailed.