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UN expert welcomes release of Iranian journalist

UN rights expert welcomes release of Iranian journalist

A United Nations-mandated independent expert on freedom of expression today “warmly” welcomed the release of Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who had served nearly all of a six-year sentence for propaganda and other acts against the State.

“[Mr. Ganji’s] strength and determination can be an example and an encouragement for the numerous intellectuals, students, journalists, writers and trade unionists still imprisoned because of their opinions,” said Ambeyi Ligaob, an independent, unpaid Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression under mandate from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Mr. Ganji was arrested in April 2000 on charges of attempts on State's security, propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its values and participation in an international conference.

Following his 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.

Mr. Ligaob said he had met the incarcerated journalist in November 2003 at Evin Prison, when he expressed concern over his situation, and had intervened to ensure that he received necessary medical, while also lobbying for his release.

In August 2005, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to the Iranian authorities to grant Mr. Ganji’s release on humanitarian grounds following a prolonged hunger strike, a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in an earlier statement welcoming the release.

“On the eve of a new era for human rights marked by the establishment of the Human Rights Council, promotion of freedom of opinion and expression and protection of its supporters seem, more than ever, absolutely essential to the advancement of democracy and human rights worldwide,” Mr. Ligaob said.

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