Fri, Jul 03, 2009 - Page 6 News List

‘Newsweek’ calls on Iran to free detained journalist

TROUBLING REPORTS: The US magazine insisted that Maziar Bahari was ‘accurate’ and ‘even-handed,’ while CNN reported he had admitted to charges against him

AFP AND AP , WASHINGTON

Newsweek magazine on Wednesday repeated a call on Iran to immediately release its correspondent and rejected charges made against him.

In a statement, Newsweek said Maziar Bahari has been detained in Iran since June 21 without access to a lawyer.

The US news weekly quoted an Iranian state news agency as saying that Bahari “has said he participated in a Western media effort to promote irresponsible reporting in Iran.”

“Newsweek strongly disputes that charge, and defends Bahari’s work,” the magazine said. “Maziar Bahari is a veteran journalist whose long career, both in print and in documentary filmmaking, has been accurate, even-handed, and widely respected. Newsweek again calls for his immediate release.”

CNN reported that the journalist had admitted to the charges in a news conference on Tuesday, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

Hardline Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami last week urged the government to “better control” the foreign media, accusing it of fomenting protests after the country’s presidential election.

Scores of journalists and reformist politicians have been arrested following Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election on June 12, which triggered a week of mass protests in Iran and charges of voter fraud.

Besides detaining Canadian-Iranian Bahari, Iran expelled BBC correspondent Jon Leyne and detained a Greek-British journalist, Jason Fowden, who was working for the Washington Times.

Meanwhile, Iran’s former president joined ranks with the country’s embattled reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, accusing the Iranian government of failing its people in the recent election and condemning the subsequent crackdown on protesters.

In a bold, lengthy statement on Wednesday on his Web site, Mousavi said he considered Iran’s cleric-led government illegitimate and demanded political prisoners be released, while saying Iran’s government needs to institute electoral reforms and ensure press freedoms.

Former president Mohammad Khatami, meanwhile, lashed out at what he termed “a poisonous security situation” in the wake of violent street protests.

Mohammad Khatami accused Iran’s leadership of a “velvet coup against the people and democracy,” and Mousavi said the government’s crackdown on demonstrators was “tantamount to a coup.”

Mousavi contends the June 12 election was marred by fraud and insists he was robbed of victory. Mohammad Khatami scorned the government for declaring Ahmadinejad the winner in a landslide.

Mousavi also condemned alleged attacks by security forces on college dormitories where “blood was spilled and the youth were beaten,” and he called for a return to a more “honest” political environment in the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s ruling clerics have called the elections “pure” and “healthy” following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s declaration that the results would stand.

The official tally of deaths among Iranian protesters during the street demonstrations following the vote was upped from 17 to 20 yesterday, Iran’s state-owned daily said, quoting Iran’s police chief General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam.

Police detained 1,032 people, and most have been released, said Ahmadi Moghaddam, adding that 500 police forces were injured in the clashes. The report did not specify whether the numbers included those detained by Basij, Khamenei’s street enforcers. Eight Basijis have also been reported killed in the street clashes.

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