Amnesty calls for the immediate release of Zhila Bani-Yaghoub
The Iranian authorities must release prisoner of conscience Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, an award-winning journalist and women's rights activist held solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.
The call came after Bani-Yaghoub, the editor of the “Focus on Iranian Women” website, was summoned to Evin Prison on 2 September to serve a one-year prison sentence. Further to her conviction for "spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting the president”, she has been banned from media and journalistic activities for 30 years.
Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa Ann Harrison said:
“The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, who is a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression and allow her to resume her profession.“
Journalists in Iran face numerous restrictions on their legitimate work, including peaceful criticism of the authorities and reporting on human rights. The Iranian authorities must relax unlawful restrictions on them and release all journalists held solely for their journalism and human rights work.”
Bani-Yaghoub had previously been tried and acquitted of similar charges on three occasions. In April 2011 she was charged with the ‘offence' of "having a personal blog without any authorisation from government authorities".
Iranian journalists expressing views contrary to those of the authorities have long been persecuted. Dozens have been harassed, detained and imprisoned in recent years after unfair trials and many of those arrested because of their non-violent professional activities before and after the disputed June 2009 election remain in prison, often held in poor conditions. Bani-Yaghoub's husband Bahman Ahmadi Amou'i – also a former editor of a business daily paper – was arrested one of those in 2009 shortly after the controversial presidential victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Zhila was also arrested at that time. She was released two months later, but her husband remained in prison where he is serving a five-year prison sentence after being convicted of "gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security", "spreading propaganda against the system", "disrupting public security" and "insulting the president". Bahman Ahmadi Amou'i started a hunger strike two weeks ago (on 28 August) in protest against his transfer to Section 209 of Evin Prison, and also stopped taking his medication on Monday 3 September.