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HRW Calls On Iran To Free Two Journalists

Two Iranian journalists arrested in Tehran in August remain detained without formal charges, Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday, September 12.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch called upon the Islamic republic authorities to either immediately release them or charge them with recognizable criminal offenses and ensure fair trials.

Reformist journalist and deputy editor of daily Etemad, Sasan Aghaei was taken away by security forces in the afternoon of August 12 from his office in the Iranian capital.

Later, they searched Aghaei's home and transferred him to Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

Aghaei, 34 has been arrested four times in the past, including in the 2009 state crackdown that followed the disputed reelection of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. He is well known for criticizing Russian foreign policy, in general, and its influence in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in particular.

Another reformist journalist, Yaghma Fashkhami was also detained at his office, Didban-i Iran (Iran Watch), a website close to Iran Green Movement reported.

According to “Kalemeh”, another website close to the Green Movement, “Fashkhami was arrested by the judiciary’s intelligence forces”, on Monday, August 21.

It was the second time that Yaghma Fashkhami, a contributor to monthly Payam-I Hajar and former reporter of daily Roozan, was taken into custody. He was arrested in 2015 but released, later.

“Iran’s judiciary and intelligence agencies have a longstanding pattern of prosecuting journalists on dubious national security charges,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Since his arrest, HRW notes, “Aghaei has been held in solitary confinement in ward 241 of Evin prison in Tehran, which is under the supervision of the Judiciary Intelligence Agency”.

The reason behind the recent detentions is not yet clear, Iran Labor News Agency, ILNA reported, adding “Authorities have not commented on the fate of these two reformist journalists, so far”.

The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders says Iran is one of the world’s five biggest prisons for media workers.

Earlier this month, the group said 10 journalists and 17 citizen journalists are currently detained in Iran.