08/01/2007, 00.00
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Death sentence for two Kurdish journalists

The two men were charged with subverting national security. Their lawyers have 20 days to appeal before they die by hanging. Government crackdown intensifies as nine journalists languish in Iranian jails.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran’s theocratic regime sentenced to death two dissident journalists from its ethnic Kurdish minority for being "enemies of God.” Journalist rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced that Adnan Hassanpour and Hiva Boutimar were sentenced by a court in the north-eastern city of Marivan on July 16

Attorneys representing the two journalists have 20 days to appeal against their sentences, but if their cases are rejected by the Supreme Court they will die by hanging.

A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said that the two journalists had “taken arms to topple the system.”

RSF called the death sentences against Mr Hassanpour and Mr Botimar “outrageous and shameful,” stressing “how little Iran is bothered by international humanitarian law” and “how determined it is to use every possible means to silence the most outspoken journalists and human rights activists.”

Hassanpour worked for the magazine Asou, which has been banned since August 2005 as a result of a decision by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. He wrote about the very sensitive Kurdish issue. At his trial, which was held behind closed doors, he was found guilty of “activities subverting national security” and “spying.”

Three other Kurdish journalists are currently in prison in Iran.

Ejlal Ghavani of Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan, a weekly that was suspended in 2004, was detained on July 9 of this year after being convicted by a court in Sanandaj of “inciting the population to revolt” and “activities against national security.”

Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand, Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan’s editor and the founder of a human rights organisation, was arrested on July 1 and transferred to Evin prison. He has not been officially charged.

Kaveh Javanmard of the weekly Karfto is currently serving a two-year prison sentence. He was not allowed legal representation during his so-called trial, which took place behind closed doors.

With a total of nine journalists currently detained, Iran continues to be the Middle East’s biggest prison for the press and one of the world’s ten most repressive countries with regards to freedom of expression in the media.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on the Reporters Without Borders list of the world’s 34 worst “press freedom predators.” Since he came to office, the authorities have cracked down hard on journalists.

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