Iran Human RightsEU protests to Iran over media, dissident arrests

EU protests to Iran over media, dissident arrests

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AFP: The European Union lodged a formal protest with Iranian authorities Wednesday over the arrest and harassment of journalists, staff of non-governmental organisations and members of religious minorities. “The European Union has protested in general the arrest and harassment of journalists, Internet technicians and NGO activists … for expressing their views, and has urged the immediate release of those who are still detained, often in unknown locations,” said a statement from the embassy of the Netherlands. AFP

TEHRAN – The European Union lodged a formal protest with Iranian authorities Wednesday over the arrest and harassment of journalists, staff of non-governmental organisations and members of religious minorities.

“The European Union has protested in general the arrest and harassment of journalists, Internet technicians and NGO activists … for expressing their views, and has urged the immediate release of those who are still detained, often in unknown locations,” said a statement from the embassy of the Netherlands.

The statement said the complaint was handed to the Iranian foreign ministry by the ambassadors of the Netherlands and Britain, respectively the current and next holders of the rotating EU presidency.

The statement listed six journalists or Internet writers arrested in a recent crackdown and who are still behind bars, seven who were detained and released, and four writers or activists who have received travel bans.

“The European Union expressed further concern at the recent arrest of Mr Mohammed Reza Aghapour, an Azeri journalist and editor-in-chief of the banned magazine ‘Asan’ and Mr Ensefali Hedayat, a Kurdish journalist, who was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in April 2004,” it said.

“There are grave concerns that proper legal procedures have not been followed in these cases.”

Iran’s judiciary, a bastion of the Islamic republic’s religious right, has in recent months been stepping up its crackdown on the press, and extending its reach into cyberspace.

The EU also protested the arrests of Christians and in particular Christian pastors as an “infringement of the freedom of religion or belief” and urged the release of a Christian pastor, Hamid Pourmand, who was arrested on September 9 and recently moved to a military prison.

“The European Union has further protested the demolitions of Baha’i holy sites and the discrimination of Baha’is, notably denial of access to universities unless they renounce their faith, and has urged for a solution to the educational needs of the Baha’is,” the statement added.

The ambassadors drew “attention to the fact that the European Parliament also recently expressed its concern about the human rights situation in Iran and the fact that all 25 member states of the European Union co-sponsored” a resolution on the human rights situation here adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 17.

Last month Iran rejected the European parliament’s criticism as “unreal, biased, hasty and undocumented”.

For the past two years, the European Union has been seeking to engage Iran on human rights issues, but the dialogue appears to have stalled.

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