October 7, 1998
We fear that the real motive in jailing the four journalists is to punish them for their activities as journalists, and to intimidate other independent-minded journalists in Iran.
Hanny Megally Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division

In an open letter sent today to the Head of the Judiciary in Iran, Ayatollah Yazdi, Human Rights Watch called for the immediate and unconditional release of four journalists from the daily newspaper Tous, who were arrested on the order of a Revolutionary Court on September 16.

We fear that the real motive in jailing the four journalists is to punish them for their activities as journalists, and to intimidate other independent-minded journalists in Iran," said Hanny Megally, the Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division.

The four journalists are: Mr. Hamid Reza Jalei-Pour and Mr. Mohammad Javadi-Hessar, both managers of the newspaper, Mr. Mashallah Shamsol-va-Ezine, an editor, and Mr. Ebrahim Nabavi, a staff writer at Tous.

On September 15, the Leader Ayatollah Khamene’i threatened to use extra-legal force to silence independent newspapers. On the next day, the newspaper Tous, which had gained a reputation and a wide readership among Iranians for its championing of reform, was ordered closed. During the last few months, several newspapers and magazines have been closed. These include: Gozaresh-e Rouz, Khanneh, Jameh, Tous, Rah-e No, Tavana, Jameh Salem, Asr-e Ma.

For more information, please contact:
Hanny Megally, 212-216-1230
Elahé S. Hicks, 212-216-1233

A copy of the letter is attached.

October 7, 1998
By Facsimile

H.E. Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi
Head of the Judiciary
Park-e Shahr
Tehran
Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Excellency:

Human Rights Watch is writing this open letter to express its deep concern about the arrest and incommunicado detention in solitary confinement since September 16 of four staff members from Tous, a daily newspaper, which was banned the same day. We fear that the real motive in jailing and prosecuting the four journalists is to punish them for their activities as journalists and writers, and to intimidate other independent-minded journalists in Iran.

Mr. Hamid Reza Jalei-Pour and Mr. Mohammad Javadi-Hessar, both managers, Mr. Mashallah Shamsol-va-Ezine, an editor, and Mr. Ebrahim Nabavi, a staff writer with Tous were arrested on the order of the Revolutionary Court for publishing articles "against security and general interests." Human Rights Watch fears that the detainees are being ill-treated in order to pressure them to sign false confessions. The detainees have been held incommunicado since their arrests with no access to their lawyers and their families. Only Mr. Jalei-Pour’s mother was permitted to visit him in Tehran on October 3.

The Revolutionary Court’s order arresting these journalists appears to be in direct violation of Iran’s constitution which states that any offenses relating to the press should be brought before a designated press court. The Iranian press law stipulates that such courts should hold their proceedings in public and in the presence of a jury.

The arbitrary detention of these four journalists is a violation of Iran’s obligation under international law. Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party, requires states to ensure that:

Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.

Article 14(3) of the ICCPR states that:

In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled... (g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or confess guilt.

Incommunicado detention increases a detainee’s vulnerability to torture or ill-treatment. Moreover, denial of the right of access to counsel is a violation of internationally recognized standards for fair trial.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the prosecution of these four journalists is part of a campaign of repression and violence targeting independent media. On September 15, the Leader Ayatollah Khamene’i gave impetus to this campaign by threatening to use extra-legal force to silence independent newspapers which he characterized as "a dangerous, creeping cultural movement...writing against Islam," unless government officials took action against them.

On the next day, the newspaper Tous which had gained a reputation and a wide readership among Iranians for its championing of reform was ordered closed. During the last few months, several newspapers and magazines have been closed. These include: Gozaresh-e Rouz, Khanneh, Jameh, Tous, Rah-e No, Tavana, Jameh Salem, Asr-e Ma.

Human Rights Watch calls for the immediate and unconditional release of these four detained journalists. We seek assurances that while they are in detention they will be well treated and permitted access to legal counsel, independent medical doctors, and to their family members.

We look forward to your urgent attention to our request , and thank you for your consideration.