Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Iran jails its conscience

Asia Times online, October 18, 2007

By Pepe Escobar

A man is being kept in solitary confinement in cell number 209 of sinister Evin prison in Tehran. His crime: he's Iran's top human rights activist.

On the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin met Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to discuss Caspian Sea energy wealth and Iran's civilian nuclear program, Emadeddin Baghi finally received a visit by his lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht.

All Baghi's books have been confiscated. In his bare cell, there is only a copy of the Koran. According to his lawyer, Baghi is in good condition: "When I saw him, he was reading the Koran." Baghi's house, family and home telephone are under close surveillance.

Baghi was sent to prison last Sunday by Branch 14 of Iran's Revolutionary Court. The judge accused him of disclosing "secret" information through his highly respected NGO, the Association for the Defense of Prisoners Rights. He was about to be released on bail equivalent to US$53,000 when the judge told him that even if his family collected the funds he would be sent to jail. According to his lawyer, this was because of a previous 2003 one-year suspended sentence, which was changed into imprisonment.

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