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Campaign Launched For Release Of Iranian Political Prisoners

Zhila Baniyaghoub

Zhila Baniyaghoub

Two Paris-based advocacy groups, Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Human Rights, are launching a campaign today along with Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi calling for the release of political prisoners in Iran.

The launch is timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Iran's disputed presidential election that returned Mahmud Ahmadinejad to power and sparked off street protests and a subsequent violent crackdown.

Authorities rounded up thousands of opposition supporters, journalists, and other pro-reformists in the wake of last year's protests, and scores remain in jail.

"For one year, we see that the repression of political opponents of the [Iranian] regime -- of journalists or people who want to have free speech -- [has been] harsh," says Gilles Lordet, chief editor of Reporters Without Borders. "There are more and more people who have been arrested by the regime that are in prison. And we [call] for the liberation of these people."

In comments to RFE/RL's Radio Farda this week, Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2003, highlighted one of the most recent cases -- that of prominent journalist Zhila Baniyaghoub, who this week was sentenced to one year in jail and given a 30-year ban from journalistic activities, according to Iranian media.

"I regret to see that Iran's judiciary has deteriorated so much that it has become a security body in which the judges are the puppets of the Intelligence Ministry agents," Ebadi said.

Baniyaghoub was arrested in June 2009 during Iran's postelection crackdown along with her husband, journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amouee.

Baniyaghoub was released on bail after two months' detention in August 2009. She was awarded the Courage In Journalism prize by the International Women's Media Foundation in 2009.

"How can one tell a journalist who is the winner of a world courage award that she has no right to work for 30 years?" Ebadi asked.