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Iranian Journalists Stopped From Showing Solidarity With Paris Victims

Security forces in Tehran have thwarted efforts by Iranian journalists to stage a demonstration to show solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

Journalists tried to gather on January 8 near the building which had housed the Association of Iranian Journalists before it was shut down by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s government in August 2009.

But witnesses said police and security forces prevented the journalists from gathering in front of the building, which has been sealed since it was raided by security forces in 2009.

A journalist who did not want to be identified by name told RFE/RL that there was a heavy police presence on the streets leading to the Association of Iranian Journalists before the scheduled demonstration.

He said journalists had planned to place flowers and light candles in front of the association’s building as a sign of respect for the Charlie Hebdo staffers killed in the attack, which left 12 people dead.

But the journalists said they were forced to leave without placing the flowers they had carried after an hour of trying to bargain with the police.

“We just wanted to express our disgust regarding the terrorist attack,” said another journalist who was planning to participate in the solidarity gathering.

Iran often prevents or quashes gatherings that are not sponsored by the state.

President Hassan Rohani said after winning the June 2013 elections that he would make an effort to legally revive the Association of Iranian Journalists, along with other professional and trade associations closed by Ahmadinejad’s regime.

But Iran’s conservative judiciary in October 2013 ordered the continued closure of the 4,000-member association.

Twelve people, including eight journalists, were killed when gunmen stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that has received threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Tehran condemned the killing on January 7, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham saying, "All acts of terrorism against innocent people are alien to the doctrine and teachings of Islam."

But Afkham also said that "making use of freedom of expression... to humiliate the monotheistic religions and their values and symbols is unacceptable."

With additional reporting by Golnaz Esfandiari in Washington