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Iranian journalist and dissident Akbar Ganji (file photo)
Prominent Iranian journalist and dissident Akbar Ganji has dedicated a press freedom award to journalists and bloggers imprisoned in Iran, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute last month declared Ganji as its 59th "World Press Freedom Hero" in recognition of his work defending freedom of speech despite harassment and imprisonment. Ganji was one of 60 "World Press Freedom Heroes" honored in an IPI ceremony on September 13 in Vienna.

Ganji told Radio Farda on September 15 that the award cannot "consider all individuals in this field and it is only given to the representative of those heroes. Therefore I believe this award belongs to all of our hero journalists and bloggers who are now in prison."

"When I see myself free in democratic countries while my best friends and colleagues are in prison in awful situations, then I believe that this award first belongs to them and then belongs to me in second place," he added.

Ganji spent six years in Iran's Evin prison for articles that accused high-level political figures and clerics of involvement in the assassinations of intellectuals and dissidents in the 1980s and the '90s.

He continued to write while in prison and his best-selling book, "The Dungeon of Ghosts," is credited with helping defeat a number of conservative candidates in the 2000 elections.

He was released in 2006 and is now based abroad.
Ahmad Ghabel
Noted Iranian religious scholar Ahmad Ghabel has been detained after appearing at the Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office in Mashad, his wife has told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Ghabel was previously arrested on December 20, 2009, on his way to the funeral of top dissident cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.

The charges pressed against him included "acting against national security through disseminating propaganda against the Islamic republic and insulting the supreme leader."

He was released on bail after serving nearly six months in Vakilabad prison in Mashad, northeastern Iran.

Ghabel told Radio Farda on September 8 that he had been summoned to court to be questioned about his activities since his release.

His wife, Marzieh Pasdar, said that she accompanied her husband to the prosecutor's office on September 14, where he was questioned for about 30 minutes.

"Then he told me that they want to take him to jail," she said.

Pasdar said Ghabel told her the reason given for his detention was a lecture he had delivered in the city of Najafabad, in central Iran.

"Ghabel gave a talk in Najafabad about Ayatollah Montazeri the first week he was released from prison [after his December 2009 arrest]," said Pasdar. She added that her husband also talked of what had happened to him in jail.

Pasdar added that the other stated reason for his detention was information he had published about executions in Vakilabad prison.

A critic of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ghabel was also arrested in 2001 after writing an open letter critical of him. Ghabel then spent 125 days in solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin prison.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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