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Iran: Annan Welcomes Release Of Journalist

Iran: Annan Welcomes Release Of Journalist Akbar Ganji

New York, Mar 20 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he is pleased at the freeing of Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji following asix-year prison sentence.

Mr. Ganji received his term in 2000 after returning from a human rights conference in Berlin where he reportedly expressed views critical of the Iranian authorities and the country's Supreme Leader. He was charged with “harming national security” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.”

In August 2005, the Secretary-General appealed to the Iranian authorities to grant Mr. Ganji’s release on humanitarian grounds following a prolonged hunger strike, spokesman Stephane Dujarric recalled today.

Following Mr. Ganji's arrest in 2000, various mechanisms of the Commission
on Human Rights had repeatedly appealed to the Iranian authorities to review his situation, as well as the situation of other intellectuals and journalists imprisoned for press and opinion-related offences.

In a separate development, Asma Jahangir, an expert with the Commission, today drew attention to a letter in which the Supreme Leader of Iran asked governmental agencies to identify persons who adhere to the Bahá'í faith and collect information on them.

Ms. Janhangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on religious freedom, expressed concern that the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahá'í faith, in violation of international standards.

“Such monitoring constitutes an impermissible and unacceptable interference with the rights of members of religious minorities,” she said in a statement released today.

The Bahá'í community has an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 adherents throughout Iran but is not recognized as a religious minority in the country Ms. Janhangir, who is unpaid and serves in an independent capacity, called on the Government of Iran to refrain from categorizing individuals according to their religion and to “ensure that members of all religious minorities are free to hold and practise their religious beliefs, without discrimination or fear.”


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