08 January 2010
Iran must release activist Emadeddin Baghi

Prominent Iranian Journalist and human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi was arrested on December 28, 2009, the day after massive protests were held in Tehran and other cities to mark the Shi'a religious observance of Ashoura.

He is not known to have been charged with a crime. He is in poor health stemming from his previous imprisonment, and Amnesty International is concerned that he could be subjected to ill-treatment and medical neglect while in detention.

Emadeddin Baghi was the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for human rights activists, although Iranian authorities prevented him from going to Geneva to attend the award ceremony on November 9, 2009. It was the first time in the award's 18-year history that the recipient was denied the opportunity to receive the award in person.

Emadeddin Baghi is the founder of the Association for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights, which had been compiling information on torture and other abuses of detainees. He has focused attention on Iran's appalling record of executing juvenile offenders, as well as the execution, following grossly flawed legal proceedings, of a number of Iranian Arabs accused of politically motivated crimes.

In the late 1990s he exposed the mysterious serial murders of Iranian intellectuals. His books Right to Life and Right to Life II argue for the abolition of the death penalty using Islamic texts and jurisprudence. They have been banned by Iranian authorities - who had previously shut down his newspaper Joumhouriat in 2003 - and Mr Baghi has served years in prison on charges of "endangering national security" and "printing lies."

In December 2007, during his last imprisonment, he suffered three seizures and a heart attack and remained in poor health without adequate medical care until his release in October 2008. Officials closed down the office of the Association for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights in September 2009.

The Martin Ennals award, named after the first secretary-general of Amnesty International, is a collaboration of ten of the world's leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International. It is "granted annually to someone who has demonstrated an exceptional record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means." The Chairman of the Jury of the MEA, Hans Thoolen, described Emadeddin Baghi as "an exceptionally brave man defending human rights despite imprisonment and poor health."

 

Picture: Poster for the Martin Ennals award featuring Emadeddin Baghi. Copyright: Martin Ennals Foundation

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