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Iran Releases Four Journalists, Two Labor Activists On Bail

Iranian labor rights activist Sepideh Gholian conducted a five-day hunger strike in prison. (file photo).

Iran has released four journalists and two activists on bail, including labor rights activist Sepideh Gholian nine months after she was arrested and a day following a call by Amnesty International for her release.

The 24-year-old Gholian, who had recently ended a five-day hunger strike, was released after paying a reported bail equivalent to about $120,000.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency also said another labor activist, Atefeh Rangriz, was released, but it did not provide details. Rangriz, who had been held since May, had also conducted a hunger strike.

Four journalists were also released on bail: Amirhossein Mohammadifard; his wife, Sanaz Allahyari; and Amir Amirgholi -- all journalists with the GAM (Step) online magazine; and Marzieh Amiri, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper.

Two other well-known labor activists, Esmail Bakhshi and Asal Mohammadi -- who were arrested during labor protests last year -- do not appear to be among those released on bail.

Mohammadifard and Allahyari were arrested at their home in January, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPR), which condemned the detentions. Amirgholi -- who previously served more than two years on charges including “insulting the supreme leader -- was also arrested in January.

Shargh on May 4 said Amiri was detained at a demonstration outside the Iranian parliament in Tehran. New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) later said that Amiri was being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Gholian and Esmail Bakhshi were arrested on January 20 in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province, in apparent reprisal for talking publicly about the torture they said they endured in detention late last year, Amnesty said earlier this year.

On January 19, state television broadcast “confessions” that the two activists said were obtained under torture and other ill-treatment.

In the videos, Bakhshi and Gholian “confess” to colluding with groups outside Iran to orchestrate the overthrow of Iran’s political system.

At the time, Philip Luther, Amnesty's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that “the timing of their arrest strongly suggests it is part of a sinister attempt to silence and punish them for speaking out about the horrific abuse they suffered in custody.”

The two activists were first arrested on November 2018 after participating in a rally in Shush, Khuzestan, and seeking to meet with officials to discuss the unpaid wages of workers at the Haft Tappeh sugar factory.

Following their release on bail in December, Bakhshi and Gholian described to Amnesty the acts of torture they said they suffered at the hands of security officials.

Amnesty, which condemned their earlier arrests, on October 25 restated its call for their immediate release.

“Imprisoned labor rights activist Sepideh Gholian and her family are suffering constant abuse and harassment by Ministry of Intelligence officials and prison authorities,” Amnesty said.

The rights watchdog said Bakhshi and Gholian have been in prison since January “in connection with their participation in peaceful protests.”

Amnesty expressed concerns about Gholian’s health following a five-day hunger strike from October 20-25 that she said was in protest of “unbearable conditions” at Qarchak prison, south of Tehran.

Her father told RFE/RL on October 25 that she had ended the hunger strike “upon promises by prison authorities.”

With reporting AFP