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Akbar Ganji during his release in late May 30 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department yesterday called on Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalist and free-speech advocate Akbar Ganji.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack charged that Ganji is being detained solely because of his political views and that what he called Ganji's "mistreatment" in prison is a serious violation of fundamental human rights.

McCormack noted there are reports that Ganji is in poor health, and urged Iranian authorities to ensure that he receives access to all necessary medical attention and legal representation.

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi discussed Ganji's condition with Radio Farda today, also warning that quick action is required to avoid serious danger to his health.

"Unfortunately Mr. Ganji is still on hunger strike and judiciary officials are not paying attention to the fact that, with his illness, this is dangerous and Mr. Ganji is step by step getting closer to a serious danger," Ebadi said.

"Once more I would like to bring the worrying condition of Akbar Ganji to the attention of judiciary officials, the Iranian people, and international human rights groups," Ebadi added. "If no immediate action is taken, he could [die]. I ask judiciary officials and the Iranian and international public opinion to help Ganji."

Ganji was jailed in 2001 for writing articles linking senior Iranian regime officials to the murders of several intellectuals and writers.

He was allowed to leave jail in May to be treated for asthma and back pain, but returned to Tehran's Evin prison in June.

(RFE/RL/AP/AFP)
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