Mr. Bahram Ghasemi, Chargé d'Affaires
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Canada
245 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2K2
May 11, 2009
Dear Mr. Ghasemi,
I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.
CJFE welcomes the news of Roxana Saberi's release from Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran on May 11, 2009. Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, was detained in January 2009. In April, she was sentenced to eight years in prison for spying for the United States. She was released after an appeals court changed the ruling to a two-year suspended sentence and a ban from reporting in Iran for five years. The new punishment appears to reflect that Saberi's case revolved around her work as a journalist.
Iran's judiciary pledged that Saberi's case would be given a legitimate and independent legal hearing, with third party monitoring. And the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, stated that it would be carried out in a "careful, quick and fair" manner. These are all welcome signs of greater transparency and accountability.
In contrast, Hossein 'Hoder' Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger, has been detained in an unknown location in Iran since November 1, 2008. Charges against him have yet to be specified. There is concern that Derakhshan was targeted for his blogs, which were critical of Iranian authorities.
CJFE calls for clarity surrounding the charges against Hossein Derakhshan and urges the Iranian government to hold a fair and transparent trial if there are charges against him. If charges are not brought against him, CJFE calls for Derakhshan's immediate and unconditional release. We hope that the guarantees made in Saberi's case will be applied to Derakhshan's case, and that greater transparency will help foster a safer environment for all journalists and bloggers to work in Iran.
We thank you for your attention and look forward to your reply.
Arnold Amber, President
c.c.: The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Mr. Michel de Salaberry, Chargé d'Affaires of Canada to the Islamic Republic of Iran