Journalist Faraj Sarkoohi released, another sentenced to death

Tuesday, February 3, 1998

Journalist Faraj Sarkoohi released, another sentenced to death

(Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, 3 February 1998)

The Islamic authorities in Iran have freed dissident writer Faraj Sarkoohi, condemned to one-year imprisonment by an Islamic revolutionary court in January 1997. Mr. Sarkoohi, 50, editor of the monthly Adineh, was released on 28 January. His wife and family, now living in Berlin, confirmed that they had spoken with him by telephone.

Although overwhelmed with news of her husband's release, Mrs. Sarkoohi is at pains to remind those who fought for his release to remain dilligent. In a telephone interview with the Iran Press Service, Mrs. Farideh Sarkoohi Zebarjad asserted that her husband is in danger of further persecution as long as he is still in Iran.

"He has no papers, any document to prove who he is, and in his situation - considering that many Iranian journalists and intellectuals died in very mysterious circumstances - everything may happen to him," she said.

Mrs. Sarkoohi believes her husband is in relatively good health considering he had been ill over the past year in jail. However, she is more concerned with his personal safety while he is still in Iran. His situation is particularly vulnerable because of the arbitrary nature of Iranian law enforcement, and his history of repeated arrests.

"Mentally, he [sounded] good on the phone, his voice was happy and strong, though he complained of some physical pains, but he seemed a bit worried, as he does not have any document, identity card, passport, driving licence, anything," she continued.

Mr. Sarkoohi was propelled to international attention more than a year ago when he became caught up in a scheme concocted by Iran's intelligence organisation. Iran feared unfavourable publicity in the event of a negative ruling in a German trial involving the assassination of three leading Iranian Kurdish politicians and one of their friends in Berlin. In an effort to avoid a ruling condemning the Iranian religious leadership as terrorists, Iranian authorities conspired to use Mr. Sarkoohi as a bargaining chip to influence German jurisprudence.

The Iranian Intelligence Agency's elaborate plan involved abducting Mr. Sarkoohi at Tehran's airport as he was about to join his family in Berlin. In a subsequent news conference in Tehran, Mr. Sarkoohi claimed he had in fact gone to Germany, but chose not to join his family - electing to return to Iran voluntarily. However the truth was later revealed when Sarkoohi managed to smuggle a letter to his wife saying his news conference was a hoax. Eventually, Mr. Sarkoohi was re-arrested, charged with "seditious propaganda" against the "sacred regime" of the Islamic Republic and of "...illegal(ly) leaving the country." Consequently, he was sentenced to one year in jail, including the months he had already served in custody.

Casting a shadow over Mr. Sarkoohi's release is the shocking news of a death sentence imposed on Morteza Firoozi, the former editor of the pro-government, English-language daily, Iran News". He was arrested in June 1997 on charges of "spying for a foreign power." The Iran Press Service also reports the arrest of Mr. Akbar Gandji, a deputy editor of the monthly "Kian".

Due to Iran's continued disregard for true freedom of expression, the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists (CCPJ) encourages its supporters to send a protest letter to the Iranian leadership. Click here to see a sample protest letter with contact information.

References

Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists
Click here to access extensive background material on Sarkoohi's case prepared by the CCPJ in August 1997.

Iran Press Service, One Journalist Out, One In, One Sentenced to Death.