Press Release March 20, 2006 – Human Rights First welcomes the release this past weekend of jailed Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji. Mr. Ganji served a six-year prison sentence in reprisal for publishing numerous articles and a book that implicate government officials in the murder of Iranian intellectuals and writers in the 1990s.
Akbar Ganji was unexpectedly granted his release a few days prior to the anticipated end of his sentence, apparently in honor of the Iranian New Year. The journalist has evidently lost a great deal of weight and is in poor health, and will receive medical treatment.
In his writings and interviews, Mr. Ganji has criticized the election process in Iran, spoken out against the use of torture in Iran’s prisons, and called for the release of all political prisoners, including imprisoned journalists and students. For refusing to recant his statements or cease his advocacy for basic rights, he spent much of the past six years being held in what amount to punitive prison conditions, with insufficient food and medical care, and often in solitary confinement without access to his lawyer or family.
Thousands of supporters took part in Human Rights First’s campaign on behalf of Akbar Ganji, joining numerous human rights organizations, the European Union and President Bush in calling for his immediate release. In conversation with Mr. Ganjji’s wife last month, she expressed her deep appreciation for the constant support of individuals and organization around the world.
While Human Rights First celebrates Akbar Ganji’s release from prison, we remain deeply concerned for the freedom and safety of human rights defenders in Iran, who continue to face grave threats and harassment in retaliation for speaking out.
Akbar Ganji was recently nominated for the 2006 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders: