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New Iran Prosecutor Urged To Free Journalists: Report

Publications critical of the government have been shut down

Publications critical of the government have been shut down

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- More than 300 Iranian media workers and activists have urged Tehran's new prosecutor to free detained journalists and lift a ban on newspapers closed down by his hardline predecessor, a reformist website said.

The open letter, posted on the website of Iran's leading reformist party Mosharekat late on September 5, was published a week after Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi replaced Saeed Mortazavi as the Iranian capital's chief public prosecutor.

Mortazavi, who was later named deputy prosecutor-general, played a key role in mass trials which began last month of more than 100 reformers, activists, journalists, and others accused of fomenting opposition protests after a disputed June election.

Moderates also blame him for shutting down publications critical of the government during his six years as Tehran prosecutor, including last month's closure of the "Etemad-e Melli" daily of defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karubi.

"Unfortunately the approach of the Tehran prosecutor's office toward press and media was based on mistrust...which caused the closure of many publications and the arrest of many journalists," the letter said.

"It is expected there will be essential changes in the attitude of the prosecutor's office during your time," it said.

The letter to Jafari-Dolatabadi said the "irresponsible closure" of publications had put journalists' jobs in danger.

"The arrest of journalists is not justified under the current circumstances in the country and has no legal basis...therefore the signatories of this letter request the unconditional release of all journalists."

The statement, which carried the names of well-known activists and journalists, did not say how many journalists had been detained.

But one of the signatures, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, told Reuters 38 journalists were currently in jail in Iran, without giving details on when and where they were detained.

Business daily "Sarmayeh" last week said that according to some estimates "Mortazavi closed down 120 publications."

Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, were detained after the election, which the opposition says was rigged to secure hardline President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reelection.

Most have been since released, but others remain in jail.

The authorities deny opposition charges of vote fraud.