July 19, 2005

Akbar Ganji


The New York Sun reported today: Ganji Is Near Death in Iranian Prison, a Dissident Reports (via Instapundit):

Akbar Ganji's 36-day hunger strike has nearly cost the Iranian dissident his life, according to a writer recently released from the Tehran prison that holds Mr. Ganji, whom President Bush and European Union leaders have demanded the mullahs set free.

In a telephone interview from Tehran, a former political prisoner who was released temporarily from Evin prison at the end of June, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, told The New York Sun that Mr. Ganji's kidneys had failed and that he was seen yesterday by two fellow inmates in Evin's hospital wing laying unconscious on a floor as two guards tried to prop him up.

The Sun reported on July 13: Bush to Ganji: 'America Stands With You' (via TIA Daily):

As Tehran University students clashed with police in Iran yesterday [July 12] during demonstrations demanding the release of political prisoners, President Bush, from Washington, joined the growing movement calling for the release of dissident journalist Akbar Ganji.

"The President calls on all supporters of human rights and freedom, and the United Nations, to take up Ganji's case and the overall human rights situation in Iran," a statement released by the White House yesterday read. Calls for comment to U.N. spokesmen were unreturned at press time last night. "The President also calls on the Government of Iran to release Mr. Ganji immediately and unconditionally and to allow him access to medical assistance."

From today's Wall Street Journal 'If Ganji Dies (via Iran Va Jan):

A journalist by trade, Mr. Ganji was arrested in 1997 for giving a lecture on "the theoretical foundations of Fascism," for which he spent three months in prison. Three years later, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attending a Berlin conference deemed "anti-revolutionary" and "anti-Islamic" by the Iranian authorities. An appellate court reduced Mr. Ganji's sentence to six months, but Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi intervened to impose a six-year sentence on other charges, such as his possession of photocopied foreign newspapers.

As a prisoner, Mr. Ganji has been every bit as nettlesome to the mullahs as he was as a free man. His "Republican Manifesto," first published in 2002 and released in expanded form last May, called on his fellow citizens to boycott the country's sham elections as a way of achieving genuine democracy. During his current hunger strike, Mr. Ganji has written two letters addressed "to all free people," which can be found in English translation at Free Ganji.

From the above Web site, quoting Akbar Ganji:

I will not stand the master-slave relationship, in which the Leader ascends to the ranks of a god and people descend to the level of slaves. ... I was forced to endure 2000 days in prison for expressing my dissenting opinions and beliefs. But two thousand days of jail in the sultanist system is not sufficient for otherness, for being unconventional, and for dissent. The punishment for "difference" is much heavier. Tolerating difference is the essential and inseparable component of democratic politics. Intolerance and oppression are the main components of authoritarian regimes. ...

This candle is about to die out, but this voice will raise louder voices in its wake.

UPDATE I -- July 21: The New York Sun reports: Iran Is Considering Pardon for Ganji.

Dissident Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji may be pardoned for the remaining six months of his jail sentence, Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, said.

A pardon for Mr. Ganji would prove the efficacy of an international campaign in recent weeks demanding his unconditional release from prison. President Bush, E.U. leaders, and an Israeli politician and a former Russian political prisoner, Natan Sharansky, have called for the hunger-striker's unconditional release, as have human rights organizations and Western intellectuals, who signed a petition circulated by www.opendemocracy.net and the International Society for Iranian Studies-Committee for Academic and Intellectual Freedom.

UPDATE II -- July 24: BBC reports: Iran admits to abuse of prisoners.

The Iranian judiciary has said that human rights abuses have been taking place in the country's jails. A report drafted over several months says prison guards have ignored a legal order banning the use of torture by blindfolding and beating detainees. It also criticises police for arresting people without sufficient evidence.

Meanwhile lawyer and Nobel prize-winner Shirin Ebadi has complained that she has not been allowed to visit her client, jailed journalist Akbar Ganji. She has warned that his health is failing.

Posted by Forkum at July 19, 2005 05:55 PM