Monday, March 20, 2006CJFE welcomes the March 17 release of journalist Akbar Ganji who has endured two long hunger strikes and six years of imprisonment in Iran. Ganji, the recipient of a press freedom award from CJFE, was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2001 for writing a series of articles connecting high-level Iranian officials to the murders of several intellectuals in 1998. CJFE hopes that they will have the opportunity to finally present the 2000 International Press Freedom Award in person to Akbar Ganji, who was in prison at the time and unable to accept the award. Ganji was arrested upon his return from a conference in Berlin, where reform of the theocratic Iranian government was debated, as his actions and writings were regarded as “anti-Islamic”. Prior to his imprisonment, he was an investigative journalist for the now defunct Sobh-eEmrooz and several other reformist newspapers. Although he has been left with extensive health problems as the result of his time in prison and his hunger strikes, he has vowed to continue to speak out against the abuses of the Iranian government. In spite of all the hardship he has faced, he has not relented in his commitment to free expression. “Akbar Ganji has shown tremendous courage throughout this terrible ordeal,” says Arnold Amber, President of CJFE. “We support Mr. Ganji in his efforts to hold accountable a government that has for too long demonstrated its contempt for free expression and independent journalism.” While Ganji’s release is welcome, CJFE is concerned that the Iranian government may once again use the criminal justice system to attack Akbar Ganji for his legitimate work as a journalist. CJFE calls on the government of Iran to cease its persecution of Mr. Ganji and respect the right to free expression of all its citizens.
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