Human Rights - US Department of State on Iran

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Human Rights - US Department of State on Iran

Postby Sher-e-Punjab » Sun Mar 06, 2005 5:30 am

Iran
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41721.htm

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 28, 2005


The Islamic Republic of Iran [note 1] is a constitutional, theocratic republic in which Shi'a Muslim clergy dominate the key power structures. Article Four of the Constitution states that "All laws and regulations…shall be based on Islamic principles." Government legitimacy is based on the twin pillars of popular sovereignty (Article Six) and the rule of the Supreme Jurisconsulate (Article Five). The unelected Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, dominates a tricameral division of power among legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Khamene'i directly controls the armed forces and exercises indirect control over the internal security forces, the judiciary, and other key institutions. The executive branch was headed by President Mohammad Khatami, who won a second 4-year term in June 2001, with 77 percent of the popular vote in a multiparty election. The legislative branch featured a popularly elected 290-seat Islamic Consultative Assembly, Majlis, which develops and passes legislation, and an unelected 12-member Council of Guardians, which reviews all legislation passed by the Majlis for adherence to Islamic and constitutional principles and also has the duty of screening Majlis candidates for eligibility. Conservative candidates won a majority of seats in the February Seventh Majlis election that was widely perceived as neither free nor fair, due to the Council of Guardians' exclusion of thousands of qualified candidates. The 34-member Expediency Council is empowered to resolve legislative impasses between the Council of Guardians and the Majlis. The Constitution provides that "the judiciary is an independent power"; however, the judicial branch is widely perceived as both corrupt and heavily biased towards conservative elements within the society and against reformist forces.

Several agencies share responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the Law Enforcement Forces under the Ministry of Interior, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a military force established after the revolution. A paramilitary volunteer force known as the Basiji, and various gangs of men known as the Ansar-e Hezbollah (Helpers of the Party of God), or "plain clothes," aligned with extreme conservative members of the leadership, acted as vigilantes. Civilian authorities did not fully maintain effective control of the security forces, and there were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authority. The regular and the paramilitary security forces both committed numerous, serious human rights abuses.

The mixed economy depends on oil and gas for 80 percent of its export earnings. The population was more than 69 million. All large-scale industry is publicly owned and state-administered. Large parastatal charitable foundations ("bonyads"), with strong connections to the clerical regime, controlled as much as a third of the country's economy and exercised considerable influence. The Government heavily subsidized basic foodstuffs and energy costs. Government mismanagement and corruption negatively affected economic performance. The official unemployment rate was approximately 11 percent, although other estimates were higher. Estimated inflation was 15 percent with economic growth approximately 6.5 percent during the year.

The Government's poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. The right of citizens to change their government was restricted significantly. Continuing serious abuses included: summary executions; disappearances; torture and other degrading treatment, reportedly including severe punishments such as amputations and flogging; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of habeas corpus or access to counsel; and prolonged and incommunicado detention. Citizens often did not receive due process or fair trials. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights and restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion.

An intense political struggle continued during the early part of the year between a broad popular movement favoring greater liberalization in government policies, particularly in the area of human rights, and certain hard-line elements within the Government and society that viewed such reforms as a threat to the survival of the Islamic Republic. In many cases, this struggle was played out within the Government, with reformists and hard-liners squaring off in divisive internal debates. As in the past, reformist members of Majlis were harassed, prosecuted, and threatened with jail for statements made under parliamentary immunity. In screening for the February Seventh Majlis elections, the Guardian Council ruled approximately 2,500 of the over 8,000 prospective candidates ineligible to run, including 85 sitting reformist deputies; this was one factor leading to conservatives winning a majority of seats.

The Government restricted the work of human rights groups. Violence and legal and societal discrimination against women were problems. The Government discriminated against minorities and severely restricted workers' rights, including freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Child labor persisted. Vigilante groups, with strong ties to certain members of the Government, enforced their interpretation of appropriate social behavior through intimidation and violence. There were reports of trafficking in persons.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were reports of political killings. The Government was responsible for numerous killings during the year, including executions following trials that lacked due process.

The law criminalized dissent and applied the death penalty to offenses such as "attempts against the security of the State, outrage against high-ranking officials, and insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic." Citizens continued to be tried and sentenced to death in the absence of sufficient procedural safeguards.

Exiles and human rights monitors alleged that many of those supposedly executed for criminal offenses in the past, such as narcotics trafficking, actually were political dissidents. Supporters of outlawed political groups, or in the case of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a terrorist organization, were believed to constitute a number of those executed each year.

In January, security forces killed four persons and injured many others when they attacked striking copper factory workers in the Khatunabad village near Shahr-i Babak (see Section 6.b.).

In February, security forces killed seven persons in post-Majlis election violence in the towns of Andimeshk and Izeh in Khuzestan Province and the town of Firuzabad in the Fars Province.

In August, Iranian media reported that 16-year-old Ateqeh Rajabi was hanged in public for charges reportedly involving her "acts incompatible with chastity." Rajabi was not believed to be mentally competent; she had no access to a lawyer. Her sentence was reviewed and upheld by the Supreme Court. An unnamed man arrested with her was given 100 lashes and released.

In July 2003, an Iranian-Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, died in custody after being arrested for taking photographs at Evin prison in Tehran. After initially claiming that she had died as a result of a stroke, the Government subsequently admitted that she died as a result of a blow to the head and charged individuals involved in her detention. The Government denied Canada's request, based on her son's statement, that Kazemi's remains be sent to Canada for further autopsy and burial. In July, a court acquitted an Intelligence Ministry official accused of her death, and the Government has taken no subsequent investigative or legal action to resolve ambiguities surrounding her death (see Section 4).

Two political activists associated with the outlawed Komala party, Sassan al-Kanaan and Mohammad Golabi, were executed in February and March 2003. Golabi reportedly was tortured while in detention. The opposition Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) alleged that the Government executed party member Jalil Zewal in December 2003, after 9 years in prison during which he reportedly was tortured. KDPI member Ramin Sharifi was also executed in December 2003 after his arrest in July 2003. KDPI reported that hard-line vigilante groups killed at least seven other Kurdish civilians during 2003.

The 1998 murders of prominent political activists Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, writers Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyandeh, and the disappearance of political activist Pirouz Davani continued to cause controversy about what is perceived to be the Government's cover-up of involvement by high-level officials. Prominent investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, who was arrested in 2000 and sentenced to 6 years in prison for his reporting on the case, remained in prison (see Sections 1.d. and 1.e.). In 2001, the Special Representative for Iran of the Commission on Human Rights (UNSR) also reported claims that there were more than 80 killings or disappearances over a 10-year period as part of a wider campaign to silence dissent. Members of religious minority groups, including the Baha'is, evangelical Christians, and Sunni clerics were killed in recent years, allegedly by government agents or directly at the hands of authorities.

b. Disappearance

Little reliable information was available regarding the number of disappearances during the year.

The Government announced that approximately 4,000 persons--both protesters and vigilantes--were arrested in connection with pro-reform protests in June 2003. As of December, approximately 130 still were detained.

No further information was known regarding the disappearances of Baha'i, Kurdish, and Jewish Iranian prisoners cited in previous Human Rights Reports dating from as early as the fall of the Shah in 1979.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution forbids the use of torture, as does the Law on Respect of Lawful Liberties and Protection of Citizenship Rights adopted in May; however, there were numerous credible reports that security forces and prison personnel continued to torture detainees and prisoners. Some prison facilities, including Tehran's Evin prison, were notorious for the cruel and prolonged acts of torture inflicted upon political opponents of the Government. Additionally, in recent years, government officials have inflicted severe prisoner abuse and torture in a series of "unofficial" secret prisons and detention centers outside the national prison system. Common methods included prolonged solitary confinement with sensory deprivation, beatings, long confinement in contorted positions, kicking detainees with military boots, hanging detainees by the arms and legs, threats of execution if individuals refused to confess, burning with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, and severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet. Prisoners also reported beatings about the ears, inducing partial or complete deafness, and punching in the eyes, leading to partial or complete blindness.

On February 28, Judiciary Head Ayatollah Shahroudi issued a directive protecting the rights of the accused and, among other points, instructing police, judicial officials, and security agents to refrain from physical abuse when interrogating suspects. On May 2, the Majlis passed a law based on this 15-point directive in the form of the Bill on Legitimate Liberties and Civil Rights, which the Council of Guardians approved shortly thereafter. However, there is much anecdotal evidence that this law was ignored routinely in practice.

In August, credible international and local NGOs reported the case of a prisoner in the province of Khuzistan who had to have his hands amputated because prison officials had left him hanging by the wrists and then forgot about him.

In August 2003, the Council of Guardians rejected a bill on accession to the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Majlis amended the bill in late December 2003, reportedly addressing Council of Guardians concerns over the monetary costs of joining the convention, but the council still rejected the revised bill. The Council of Guardians also rejected in mid-2002 a bill passed by the Majlis to end torture and forced confessions.

In July 2002, in an effort to combat "un-Islamic behavior" and social corruption among the young, the Government formed a new "morality" force, referred to merely as "special units" (yegan ha-ye vizhe), to complement the existing morality police, "Enjoining the Good and Prohibiting the Forbidden" (Amr be Ma'ruf va Nahi az Monkar). The new force was to assist in enforcing the Islamic Republic's strict rules of moral behavior. Credible press reports indicated that members of this force chased and beat persons in the streets for offenses such as listening to music or, in the case of women, wearing makeup or clothing regarded as insufficiently modest (see Section 1.f.). While not uniformly enforced, in July, morality police made several raids in shopping centers and shops in northern Tehran, rounding up young women who they determined to be violating the Islamic dress code and confiscating articles of clothing considered immodest.

In February, Mohsen Mofidi reportedly received 80 lashes following a 4-month prison sentence having been convicted of consuming alcohol, owning a satellite dish, and aiding his sister's "corruption" in associating with male companions. He died in a hospital in Tehran shortly after his release.

In March 2003, activist Siamak Pourzand was re-imprisoned after his provisional release in November 2002. After his arrest in 2001, Pourzand was tried in March 2002 behind closed doors and sentenced to 11 years in prison for "undermining state security through his links with monarchists and counter-revolutionaries." Press reports said that he had confessed to his crimes at his trial, but his family claimed that the confession was extracted under duress. Pourzand suffered severe health problems while held incommunicado, reportedly including a heart attack, and was allegedly denied proper medical treatment. As of December, Siamak Pourzand was on leave from prison for medical treatment, his condition a direct result of physical, emotional, and mental abuse during 2½ years of imprisonment (over 12 months of which was in solitary confinement). Despite critical health problems, the Government did not allow him to leave the country for treatment.

In April 2003, Former Deputy Prime Minister and longtime political dissident, Abbas Amir-Entezam was re-imprisoned, after his release in 2002 for medical reasons. Amir-Entezam was reportedly incarcerated for calling for a referendum on whether the country should remain under clerical rule during a speech at Tehran University. He was reportedly a frequent victim of torture in prison resulting in numerous medical problems. He reported having been taken on numerous occasions before a firing squad (see Section 1.e.). During the year, he was released on medical leave until late November, due to the Government's inability to treat his medical conditions in prison. As of December, he was receiving medical treatment at his home while recovering from back surgery, and his medical leave was extended until early January 2005.

In July 2003, an Iranian-Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, died in custody as a result of a blow to the head (see Section 1.a.).

In November 2003, four men were reportedly sentenced to death by stoning for involvement in kidnapping and rape. In December 2002, the Government officially suspended the practices of amputation and lapidation or stoning--a form of capital punishment for adultery and other crimes, although the law has not been rescinded. Amnesty International (AI) reported at least nine cases of amputation since 2002 and four cases of execution of children.

In mid-September, the Public Relations head of Hamedan Province's Department of Prisons announced that the fingers of a robber were cut off on the order of the public prosecutor's office. In mid-October, an Ahvaz judge upheld the sentence to amputate a young man's right hand, with the sentence subsequently implemented. On November 11, in Sanandaj, a 14-year-old Kurdish boy died after having received 85 lashes based on a judge's ruling finding him guilty of breaking his fast during the month of Ramadan.

Prison conditions in the country were poor. Many prisoners were held in solitary confinement or denied adequate food or medical care to force confessions. After its February 2003 visit, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions reported that "for the first time since its establishment, [the Working Group] has been confronted with a strategy of widespread use of solitary confinement for its own sake and not for traditional disciplinary purposes." The Working Group described Sector 209 of Evin Prison as a "prison within a prison," designed for the "systematic, large-scale use of absolute solitary confinement, frequently for long periods."

The 2001 report by the UNSR noted a significant increase in the prison population and reports of overcrowding and unrest. In July, the UK-based International Center for Prison Studies reported that 133,658 prisoners occupied facilities constructed to hold a maximum of 65,000 persons. In November, the Iran Prison Organization reported a prison population of 134,103.

The UNSR reported that much of the prisoner abuse occurred in unofficial detention centers run by unofficial intelligence services and the military. The UNSR further reported that the unofficial detention centers were to be brought under the control of the National Prison Organization (NPO)during 2001; however, November 2003 press reports indicated that a number of unofficial detention centers continued to operate outside NPO control. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention raised this issue with the country's Article 90 Parliamentary Commission during its February 2003 visit, generating a commission inquiry that reportedly confirmed the existence of numerous unofficial prisons.

In a June study, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented a number of unofficial prisons and detention centers such as "Prison 59" and "Amaken" an interrogation center where persons are held without charge, questioned intensively for prolonged periods, and physically abused and tortured during the process.

The Government generally has only granted prison access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); however, it did permit visits to imprisoned dissidents by U.N. human rights officials during 2003 (see Section 4). U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention officials visited Evin prison in Tehran--including sector 209, in which many political prisoners were believed held--as well as Esfahan and Shiraz prisons, the Shiraz military prison, and police stations in each city. The Working Group interviewed approximately 140 "ordinary" prisoners plus 14 out of a requested 45 inmates described as political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The Working Group described the authorities' cooperation as "on the whole positive," although it noted problems with fulfillment of follow-up requests generated by the visit and disappointment over arrests carried out after the Group's departure. Following his November 2003 visit to the country, the UNSR for the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression noted that his delegation met with almost 40 dissidents, both in and out of prison.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, these practices remained common. In practice, there is no legal time limit for incommunicado detention nor any judicial means to determine the legality of detention. In the period immediately following detention or arrest, many detainees were held incommunicado and denied access to lawyers and family members. Suspects may be held for questioning in jails or in local Revolutionary Guard offices. There also are numerous detention centers not under the control of the NPO, reportedly run by "plainclothes" officers of various security and intelligence agencies, elements of the judiciary, and state-sponsored vigilante groups.

The security forces often did not inform family members of a prisoner's welfare and location. Authorities often denied visits by family members and legal counsel. In addition, families of executed prisoners did not always receive notification of the prisoners' deaths. Those who received such information reportedly were forced on occasion to pay the Government to retrieve the body of their relative.

Security forces often targeted family members of political prisoners for harassment. In April, a court sentenced student activist Payman Piran, detained since February on charges of acting against national security, contacting foreigners, disturbing public opinion, and behaving insultingly, to 10 years in prison. In July, security forces forcibly evicted retired teacher Mostafa Piran, father of Peyman Piran, and his family from their apartment, confiscated their goods, and sealed the apartment. They beat Mostafa Piran and then detained him in Evin Prison. He was not informed of any charges against him nor allowed to see a lawyer. Subsequently, family members who saw him said that he had been mistreated during lengthy interrogation sessions and badly bruised. Also in July, Simin Mohammadi and her father Mohammad Mohammadi, sister and father respectively of jailed student activists Manuchehr and Akbar Mohammadi, were arrested, reportedly for "acts against state security." Simin was released after posting bail following 2 weeks' imprisonment in solitary confinement; her father also was released on bail after having had a heart attack in solitary confinement.

According to the media, in November, Mohammad Reza Aghapour, former editor-in-chief of the banned magazine, Asan, was arrested upon his return from London where he reportedly attended seminars on the circumstances of the country's Turkish population. At year's end, there was no information on whether Aghapour was imprisoned or if charges were brought against him.

According to the media, in September, authorities arrested and held for 11 days Soeed Matalebi, the father of Sinn Motalebi, a political opponent of the regime who helped to operate an Internet opposition website.

In January 2003, the Government released Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, amid reports of health problems after 5 years of house arrest. Montazeri was formerly the designated successor of the late Spiritual Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who subsequently became an outspoken critic of the Supreme Leader (see Section 2.a.). In recent years, the Government has used the practice of house arrest to restrict the movements and ability to communicate of senior Shi'a religious leaders whose views regarding political and governance issues were at variance with the ruling orthodoxy; however, there was no information on current practice.

In July 2003, the press credibly reported that Iranian-American academic Dariush Zahedi was detained during a private visit to the country and reportedly held in solitary confinement in Evin prison. Majlis officials noted that Zahedi was held on suspicion of espionage but, after a 40-day investigation, was cleared by the Ministry of Intelligence. However, Zahedi remained in detention after the case was transferred to the judiciary, reportedly at the intervention of Tehran's chief prosecutor. Zahedi was released on approximately $250,000 (200 million Tomans) bail in November 2003 and, although technically free to leave the country, is still subject to criminal prosecution. As of February, Zahedi had left the country; the charges against him were still pending.

In November 2003, security agents briefly arrested two sons of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the dissident cleric released from house arrest in January (see Section 1.d. above). The arrests reportedly were in response to the sons' attempts to refurbish a building purchased by the family for use as a teaching facility. The Qom mosque and Koranic school at which Montazeri formerly taught has remained closed since 1997, when comments by the cleric questioning the authority of the Supreme Leader sparked attacks on the school and his home by Ansar-e Hezbollah mobs.

In November 2003, student activist Ahmed Batebi met with the UNSR for the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, while on medical leave from prison where he is serving a 15-year sentence for participating in the 1999 student demonstrations. He was re-arrested shortly afterward; however, he was temporarily released in late April, but he was re-incarcerated and, again, temporarily released on May 3. Subsequently, he was returned to prison, and his 10-year sentence remained in place.

AI reported that in October 2003, Arzhang Davoodi was arrested for assisting in making a television documentary criticizing the authorities. Reportedly, he was kept in solitary confinement for over 3 months and extensively beaten during the period. According to AI, he has not been charged and, although having paid bail in March, has not been released.

In July 2002, the Government permanently dissolved the Freedom Movement, the country's oldest opposition party, and sentenced over 30 of its members to jail terms ranging from 4 months to 10 years on charges of trying to overthrow the Islamic system. Other members were barred from political activity for up to 10 years and ordered to pay fines up to more than approximately $6,000 (currently 48 million tomans)(see Sections 2.b. and 3).

Numerous publishers, editors, and journalists (including those working on Internet sites) were either detained, jailed, and fined, or they were prohibited from publishing their writings during the year (see Section 2.a.).

Adherents of the Baha'i faith continued to face arbitrary arrest and detention. According to Baha'i sources, four Baha'is remained in prison for practicing their faith at year's end, one facing a life sentence, two facing sentences of 15 years, and the fourth a 4-year sentence. A small number of Baha'is were detained at any given time. Sources claimed that such arrests were carried out to "terrorize" the community and to disrupt the lives of its members. Others were arrested, charged, and then quickly released. However, the charges against them often were not dropped (see Section 2.c.).

During 2003, the Government continued to exchange with Iraq prisoners of war (POWs) and the remains of deceased fighters from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. In March 2003, the Government said it released 888 Iraqi POWs in exchange for 351 Iranian prisoners that the Government claimed were not POWs, but religious pilgrims, university students, tour guides, farmers and villagers from the border regions, and border guards). In April and August, the Government claimed that it held no more Iraqi POWs.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides that the judiciary is "an independent power"; however, in practice the court system was subject to government and religious influence. It served as the principal vehicle of the Government to restrict freedom and reform in the society. U.N. representatives, including the UNSR, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and independent human rights organizations noted the absence of procedural safeguards in criminal trials. Trials are supposed to be open to the public; however, frequently they are held in closed sessions without access to a lawyer; the right to appeal often is not honored.

There are several different court systems. The two most active are the traditional courts, which adjudicate civil and criminal offenses, and the Islamic Revolutionary Courts. The latter try offenses viewed as potentially threatening to the Islamic Republic, including threats to internal or external security, narcotics and economic crimes, and official corruption. A special clerical court examines alleged transgressions within the clerical establishment, and a military court investigates crimes committed in connection with military or security duties by members of the army, police, and the Revolutionary Guards. A press court hears complaints against publishers, editors, and writers in the media. The Supreme Court has limited review authority.

After the revolution, the judicial system was revised to conform to an Islamic canon based on the Koran, Sunna, and other Islamic sources. Article 157 provides that the Head of the Judiciary, currently Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, shall be a cleric chosen by the Supreme Leader. The head of the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General also must be clerics. Women are barred from serving as judges.

Many aspects of the pre-revolutionary judicial system survived in the civil and criminal courts. For example, defendants have the right to a public trial, may choose their own lawyer, and have the right of appeal. Panels of judges adjudicate trials. There is no jury system in the civil and criminal courts. If post-revolutionary statutes did not address a situation, the Government advised judges to give precedence to their own knowledge and interpretation of Islamic law.

In its 2003 report, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention noted failures of due process in the court system caused by the absence of a "culture of counsel" and the previous concentration of authority in the hands of a judge who prosecuted, investigated, and decides cases. The Working Group called for active involvement of counsel in cases, from the custody and investigation phase through the trial and appeals phases. The Working Group welcomed the December 2002 reinstatement of prosecution services, after a 7-year suspension, but noted that this reform had thus far had been applied unevenly, with the judge still having major investigative responsibilities in many jurisdictions.

Trials in the Revolutionary Courts, in which crimes against national security and other principal offenses are heard, were notorious for their disregard of international standards of fairness. Revolutionary Court judges were chosen in part based on their ideological commitment to the system. Pretrial detention often was prolonged, and defendants lacked access to attorneys. Indictments often lacked clarity and included undefined offenses such as "anti-revolutionary behavior," "moral corruption," and "siding with global arrogance." Defendants did not have the right to confront their accusers. Secret or summary trials of 5 minutes' duration occurred. Others were show trials that were intended merely to highlight a coerced public confession.

The legitimacy of the Special Clerical Court system continued to be a subject of debate. The clerical courts, which investigate offenses and crimes committed by clerics and which are overseen directly by the Supreme Leader, are not provided for in the Constitution and operated outside the domain of the judiciary. In particular, critics alleged that the clerical courts were used to prosecute clerics for expressing controversial ideas and for participating in activities outside the sphere of religion, such as journalism. The recommendations of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention included a call to abolish both the Special Clerical Courts and the Revolutionary Courts, which were described as "responsible for many of the cases of arbitrary detention for crimes of opinion."

The President stated on April 28 that, "absolutely, we do have political prisoners and people who are in prison for their beliefs." No accurate estimates were available regarding the number of citizens imprisoned for their political beliefs. In November 2003, the UNSR for the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion estimated the number to be in the hundreds. The Government has arrested, convicted, and sentenced persons on questionable criminal charges, including drug trafficking, when their actual "offenses" were political. The Government has charged members of religious minorities with crimes such as "confronting the regime" and apostasy, and conducted trials in these cases in the same manner as threats to national security.

In December, a Tehran justice department official alleged that the Government tried and sentenced fugitive al-Qaeda members detained in the country. The Government did not identify those convicted, the verdicts, or their sentences.

In March 2002, after a trial behind closed doors but with his lawyer present, Nasser Zarafshan, the attorney representing the families of the victims of the 1998 extrajudicial killings of dissidents by intelligence ministry officials, was sentenced to 5 years in prison (2 years for disseminating state secrets and 3 years for the possession of firearms) and 70 lashes for the possession of alcohol. He was charged with leaking confidential information pertaining to the trial. HRW reported that he was also charged with "having weapons and alcohol at his law firm." Zarafshan was originally arrested in 2000 but released after a month pending trial. An appeals court upheld his conviction in July 2002; he was arrested and taken to Evin Prison in August 2002. In November 2003, the Supreme Court reportedly dismissed his appeal. According to the NGO PenCanada, in September, a group of prisoners in collusion with prison authorities reportedly attempted to kill Zarafshan. Opposition websites reported that Zarafshan participated in a July hunger strike to protest mistreatment of prisoners' families by government officials. Reportedly, since September 2003, prison authorities have given Zarafshan only one leave of 48 hours.

Several other human rights lawyers also reportedly were abused, among them Mohammad Dadkhah, who participated in the defense of members of the Iran Freedom Movement and is a founding member of the Iranian Center for Protection of Human Rights, and Abdol Fattah Soltani, who was reportedly charged for raising accusations of torture during the 2002 defense of a number of political prisoners. In 2002, Dadkhah was sentenced to 5 months in jail and banned from practicing law for 10 years; however, in November, he remained free and was practicing law. However, in October, the Government refused to issue him a passport. In 2002, Soltani was sentenced to 4 months in prison and barred from practicing law for 5 years. At year's end, he was not in jail but still precluded from practicing law. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention included among its recommendations the need for guaranteeing the immunity of counsel in pleading cases as an essential element of the right to due process.

In November 2002, academic Hashem Aghajari was sentenced to death at a closed trial for blaspheming against Islam during a speech in Hamedan. In addition to the death sentence, he was sentenced to 74 lashes, exile to a remote desert location, 8 years in jail, and a ban on teaching for 10 years. In February 2003, the Supreme Court revoked his death sentence, but the case was sent back to the lower court for retrial. In June, the Government announced that the Supreme Court overturned his death sentence. As a result of a retrial in July, the sentence was reduced to 3 years in prison and 2 years suspended sentence in prison, in addition to 5 years "deprivation of social rights." Aghajari was released on bail on July 31 and has announced that he will challenge the court's decision to bar him from publishing articles and speaking in public.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, Abbas Amir-Entezam, was re-imprisoned in April 2003, after his release in 2002 for medical reasons. A longtime political dissident, Amir-Entezam has spent much of the past 24 years in prison. He reportedly was incarcerated for calling for a referendum on whether the country should remain under clerical rule (see Section 1.c.). During the year, he was freed on medical leave due to the Government's inability to treat his medical conditions in prison. As of December, he was receiving medical treatment at his home recovering from back surgery, and his medical leave was extended until early January 2005.

The trials in 2000 and 2001 of 13 Jewish citizens on charges related to espionage for Israel were marked by a lack of due process. Ten of the original 13 were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 4 to 13 years. The last five in prison were released in April 2003 (see Section 2.c.).

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution states that "reputation, life, property, (and) dwelling(s)" are protected from trespass except as "provided by law"; however, the Government infringed on these rights. Security forces monitored the social activities of citizens, entered homes and offices, monitored telephone conversations, and opened mail without court authorization.

Vigilante violence included attacking young persons considered too "un-Islamic" in their dress or activities, invading private homes, abusing unmarried couples, and disrupting concerts or other forms of popular entertainment. Attackers targeted women whose clothing did not cover their hair and all parts of their body except the hands and face or those who wore makeup or nail polish. In October, in Rasht, Unit 110 of the Law Enforcement Forces, another police unit charged with maintaining Islamic propriety, arrested 8 girls and 12 boys dancing at a party. In Shiraz, in late October, over a 2-day period at least 150 people were arrested. Eyewitnesses said that dozens of individuals, mostly youths, were arrested on the streets for their "un-Islamic attire." A large number of persons reportedly were arrested for "acting as a nuisance." A young man was arrested for "eating in public" in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan according to friends accompanying him.

Authorities entered homes to remove television satellite dishes, or to disrupt private gatherings in which unmarried men and women socialized or where alcohol, mixed dancing, or other forbidden activities were offered or took place. There were also widespread reports that the homes and offices of reformist journalists were entered, searched, or ransacked by government agents in an attempt to intimidate. The government campaign against satellite dishes continued, although enforcement appeared to be arbitrary and sporadic, varying widely with the political climate and the individuals involved. Press reports from late 2003 noted that security authorities restarted periodic efforts to remove satellite dishes from Tehran homes, and in 1 day confiscated 450 dishes in a single neighborhood. Early in the year, western media reported that Islamist militia confiscated approximately 40,000 satellite dishes from 4 factories secretly manufacturing satellite equipment in eastern Tehran; however, the vast majority of satellite dishes in individual homes continued to operate.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of the press, except when published ideas are "contrary to Islamic principles, or are detrimental to public rights"; it makes no mention of freedom of speech. In practice, the Government severely restricted freedom of speech and of the press. Since the election of President Khatami, the independent press, especially newspapers and magazines, played an increasingly important role in providing a forum for an intense debate regarding reform in the society. However, basic legal safeguards for freedom of expression did not exist, and since approximately 2000, the independent press has been subjected to arbitrary enforcement measures by elements of the Government, notably the judiciary, which treated such debates as a threat.

In October, security forces prevented dissident intellectual Emaddedin Baghi from leaving the country to accept an award for civil courage, informing him he was on a list of those forbidden to leave the country (see Section 2.d.). Later that month, a court revoked a December 2003 ruling that had suspended a 1-year prison sentence for "propagating against the regime," giving him 20 days to appeal the ruling. At year's end, Baghi was still free; however, he was not permitted to leave the country.

In November, local press reported that after an early October trial, a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of the Iranian liberal nationalist Freedom Movement opposition party, to an unspecified but long-term imprisonment, based on charges of actions against national security, possessing unauthorized weapons, insulting the supreme leader and government officials, and propagating against the system through actions benefiting opposition groups.

The Government continued to harass senior Shi'a religious and political leaders and their followers who dissent from the ruling conservative establishment. In May, the Special Court for the Clergy in Qom arrested Hojatoleslam Mujtaba Lotfi, an aide to Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri-Najafabadi, for publishing a book that detailed the ayatollah's 5 years under house arrest. The book also covered the attacks on Montazeri's home and theological school and described the various charges and accusations against Ayatollah Montazeri. The court confiscated all copies of the book. More generally, there were reports that the Government maintained a broad network of student informants in Qom's major seminaries, who reported teachings that are counter to official government positions.

According to HRW, following a meeting in November 2003 with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, a student (Ahmed Batebi), who was out of prison on medical leave, was returned to prison by government officials (see Section 1.d.).

In October 2003, media reported that reformist parliamentarian and outspoken critic Mohsen Armin was sentenced to 6 months in prison for insulting a conservative Majlis member. The judge reportedly also stripped Armin of his "social rights" for 1 year for not appearing in court. Armin ascribed his absence from court to his assumption that he held parliamentary immunity. In August, Armin appeared in court in response to a complaint relating to speeches he made in 1999-2002 and an accusation of spreading lies. At year's end, Armin had not been imprisoned.

In spring 2001, security forces arrested then Majlis member Fatima Haqiqatju for inciting public opinion and insulting the judiciary for criticizing the arrest of a female journalist and claiming that the Government tortured prisoners. She was the first sitting Majlis member to face prosecution for statements made under cover of immunity. Haqiqatju was sentenced to 17 months in prison, although at year's end, she had not been imprisoned for this offense. Separately, in June, the public prosecutor summoned her to court and charged her with "propaganda against the system," "spreading lies with the intent of disturbing public opinion," and "insulting the Council of Guardians, the judiciary, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps." She was released on bail, but she was forbidden to leave the country. On November 29, Haqiqatju was summoned to a Tehran Penal Court due to a complaint by the Public Prosecutor based on her February 23, 2003, resignation speech from the Majlis. She was charged with spreading lies to disturb public opinion, insulting officials, and propaganda against the Government.

Newspapers and magazines represented a wide variety of political and social perspectives, many allied with members of the Government. Many subjects were tolerated, including criticism of certain government policies. However, the Press Law prohibits the publishing of a broad and ill-defined category of subjects, including material "insulting Islam and its sanctities" or "promoting subjects that might damage the foundation of the Islamic Republic." Prohibited topics include fault-finding comments regarding the personality and achievements of the late Leader of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini; direct criticism of the Supreme Leader; assailing the principle of velayat-e faqih, or rule by a supreme religious leader; questioning the tenets of certain Islamic legal principles; publishing sensitive or classified material affecting national security; promotion of the views of certain dissident clerics, including Ayatollah Montazeri; and advocating rights or autonomy for ethnic minorities. Organs of the Government, such as the judiciary or the National Security Council, often issued written orders to newspapers instructing them to avoid covering controversial topics, or directing them as to how to cover these topics.

The Press Law established the Press Supervisory Board, which is responsible for issuing press licenses and for examining complaints filed against publications or individual journalists, editors, or publishers. In certain cases, the Press Supervisory Board may refer complaints to the Press Court for further action, including closure. Its hearings were conducted in public with a jury composed of clerics, government officials, and editors of government-controlled newspapers. The jury was empowered to recommend to the presiding judge the guilt or innocence of defendants and the severity of any penalty to be imposed, although these recommendations were not legally binding.

Since 2000, approximately 100 newspapers and magazines have been closed for varying lengths of time. In the last few years, some human rights groups asserted that the increasingly conservative Press Court assumed responsibility for cases before Press Supervisory Board consideration, often resulting in harsher judgments. Efforts to amend the press laws have not met with success, although in October 2003, Parliament passed a law limiting the duration of temporary press closures to a maximum of 10 days for newspapers, 4 weeks for weeklies or bi-weeklies, 2 months for monthlies, and 3 months for other publications. The importance of the legislation was to stop the practice of extending "temporary" bans indefinitely.

The Press Law allows government entities to act as complainants against newspapers, and often members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Intelligence Ministry, the Law Enforcement Forces, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or other public officials lodged criminal complaints against reformist newspapers that led to their closures. Offending writers were subjected to lawsuits and fines. Suspension from journalistic activities and imprisonment were common punishments for guilty verdicts for offenses ranging from "fabrication" to "propaganda against the State" to "insulting the leadership of the Islamic Republic."

Freedom of the press continued to deteriorate during the year. Many reformist newspapers and magazines were closed, and many of their managers were sentenced to jail and, sometimes, lashings.

In January, legal authorities threatened eight reformist dailies for their coverage of the sit-in by reformist deputies in front of the Parliament. The weekly Hadith-e Kerman, in Kerman Province, was closed in February for coverage in 2003 of serial killings committed by armed militia. In February, prior to the Parliament elections, the newspapers Sharq and Yas-e Nau were shut for publishing extracts from a letter by reformist parliamentarians to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei. The letter blamed Khamenei for the electoral "coup d'état" and the current political crisis. In July, Jumhuriyat, a morning newspaper started by reformist and human rights activist Emadeddin Baqi, was closed after publishing only one issue. Also in July, the court for offenses committed by government employees and the media issued a temporary ban against the Vaqa-yi Itifaqi-yi daily newspaper. Complaints against the newspaper included propaganda against the state, "insulting officials," and "publishing lies." At year's end, the paper remained closed. A handful of pro-reform newspapers continued to publish, most with heavy self-censorship. In contrast to the past when new reformist newspapers often opened to replace those that had been closed, this was no longer the case.

Dozens of individual editors and journalists have been charged and tried by the Press Court in recent years, and several prominent journalists were jailed for long periods without trial. Others have been sentenced to prison terms or exorbitant fines. As of October, at least 14 journalists, editors, and publishers remained in prison, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the most prominent being Akbar Ganji, sentenced to 6 years in prison in 2000 for his reporting on the "serial murder" of prominent reformists by elements within the Intelligence Ministry. Ganji has been allowed short furloughs from prison for treatment of a serious medical condition. Ali Reza Jabari was jailed in March 2003 after being sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment, 253 lashes, and an approximately $750 (600,000 Tomans)fine for "relations with enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and propaganda against the Government." Appeals subsequently reduced his term to 2 years, and he was released in October, 4 months before the end of his 2-year sentence. Other journalists imprisoned during the year included: Iraj Jamshidi, imprisoned without trial and held in isolation for long periods; Taghi Rahmani, held in solitary confinement for long periods and reportedly sentenced in a separate case to 13 years in jail; and Reza Alijani and Hoda Saber, both held since June 2003 and reportedly sentenced in separate cases to 6 and 10 years, respectively. In November, the head of Tehran's Islamic Revolution's Court Branch 26 ordered Alijani, Saber, and Rahmani released on bail of approximately $63,000 (50 million Tomans) each. In October 2003, journalist Mohsen Sazgara was released from jail amid rumors of ill health, after 4 months in prison on charges of inciting protest.

In January, freelance journalist Ensafali Hedayat was arrested after returning to the country after attending a conference in Germany organized by a group advocating a democratic and secular state. He reportedly faced charges relating to national security in connection with his participation in this conference and with a visit to Turkey in 2003, as well as defamation charges relating to an article he wrote which appeared on a website. Reportedly he was held in solitary confinement. In May, the Tabriz Appeals Court confirmed an 18-month prison sentence against him; reportedly he planned to appeal. However, in early December, according to his lawyer, Hedayat was returned to prison and his application to extend his leave from prison denied, due to "political activities" while on leave.

In January, a criminal court found Abdul Rasul Vesal, managing director of the daily newspaper Iran, guilty of press offenses and barred him from working in public service (journalism) for 3 years.

In May, an Iranian cleric serving as a member of the Press Supervisory Council, physically attacked and bit reformist journalist Issa Saharkhiz during a council meeting. At year's end, no charges had been brought against the cleric.

In August, a court summoned former Majlis Deputy Mohsen Mirdamadi in response to a complaint from an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps member concerning published remarks by Mirdamadi that military personnel's interference in political affairs weakens the armed forces. At year's end, there was no further information on legal action; however, he had not been incarcerated.

In August, dissident intellectual reformist and journalist Emaddedin Baqi and attorney Saleh Nikbakht appeared in court because of a complaint filed by the Intelligence and Security Ministry, relating to Baqi's banned book "Tragedy of Democracy in Iran." Later in August, a public court fined Baqi approximately $115 (100 thousand Tomans) for insulting the Council of Guardians and other officials.

In September, government officials arrested Hanif Mazroui, the son of a former member of Parliament, Rajabali Mazroui. Mazroui was a computer technician who worked for the daily newspaper Vaghayeh Etefaghieh, which was shut by the Government. He was freed on November 11 after paying approximately $19,000 (15 million Tomans) bail.

On December 27, the press reported that the Revolutionary Court sentenced prominent political activist Heshmat Tabarzadi, jailed since June 2003, to 16 years in prison.

On December 25, a Tehran judge ruled, based on a complaint by the State-run "Voice and Vision" media, that former Tehran Majlis Representative Abol Fazl Shakuri Rad must pay approximately $500 (400,000 Tomans) for comments made while he was a Majlis representative, despite constitutional protection according representatives the right to "express their views on all internal and external affairs of the country."

The Government censored and banned access to Internet sites, many of them with political content, such as the Amir Kabir University news website. During the year, the Government launched a crackdown on sites based in the country, to include "weblogs." Reportedly during the year, the Government blocked hundreds of Internet sites. According to HRW, since September, more than 20 Internet journalists and civil society activists have been arrested and held in a secret detention center in Tehran. By year's end, most were released on bail. On December 10, in a public letter to President Mohammed Khatami, the father of one of those detained, Ali Mazrui, who is also president of the Association of Iranian Journalists and a former Majlis member, implicated the judiciary in the torture and secret detention of these individuals. On December 11, the chief prosecutor of Tehran, Judge Saeed Mortazavi, filed charges against Mazrui for libel. On December 14, four of these "weblog" detainees were presented at a televised "press conference" arranged by Judge Mortazavi and denied that they had been subjected to solitary confinement, torture, or ill-treatment during their earlier detention. However, widespread and credible reports indicated that threats and coercions were used to induce their statements and, while in secret detention, threats, torture, and physical abuse were employed to obtain false confessions and letters of repentance from many of those detained.

On November 1, according to media information, Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, editor of the magazine Farzaneh, was arrested after returning from London where she attended the European Social Forum. She was released on bail of approximately $38,000 (30 million Tomans) in late November.

On October 28, Fereshteh Ghazi, a journalist addressing women's issues for the daily newspaper Etemad, was arrested after being summoned to court to answer questions. She was released in mid-December after 40 days of detention and paying bail of approximately $62,000 (50 million Tomans). She was detained on a variety of charges including "acting against state security, spreading lies, membership in internal opposition groups, and defense of murders in order to stir up public opinion against the judiciary." For 23 of the 40 days of detention, Gazhi was on a hunger strike. According to press accounts, at least part of the time she was held in an undisclosed location and was repeatedly beaten by her interrogators for refusing to cooperate with her interrogators, including refusal to sign a "confession." Her interrogators reportedly inflicted multiple, severe injuries, and, upon release in mid-December, she was immediately hospitalized.

On October 18, Javad Gholam Tamayomi, a journalist with the daily Mardomsalari was arrested after responding to a summons from the Tehran prosecutor's office. On October 10, authorities arrested journalist and Internet writer Omid Memarian and detained him on charges of espionage. In early December, four of the seven detained "weblog journalists" were released on bail, with Omid Memarian and Shahram Rafizadeh released on bail of approximately $62,000 dollars (50 million Tomans).On September 27, Rozbeh Mir Ebrahimi, former political editor of the daily Etemad was arrested at his home for contributing to reformist Internet websites. On November 26, he was released on a bail of approximately $4,000 (3 million Tomans).

Other weblog journalists detained as part of this repression included Shahram Rafizadeh, Babak Ghafouri-Azar, and Mehdi Derayati. The judiciary announced that they would be tried for "acting against national security, disturbing the public mind, and insulting sanctities." On November 11, Mehdi Derayati, Masoud Ghoreishi, and Asghar Vatanikhah were released on bail. According to Derayati's father, these detainees spent up to 3 months in detention, much of it in solitary confinement at an undisclosed location. A number of Internet news sites continued to operate from outside the country. There is little information on the extent of readership inside the country; however, media suggested that there were upwards of 4.8 million Internet users and as many as 100,000 weblogs.

In January 2003, the judiciary halted efforts by deputy speaker of the Majlis, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, to re-open the banned newspaper Norouz under the new name Rouz-e No, by extending the 6-month ban on the original publication. Khatami was slated to replace former Norouz editor and parliament member Mohsen Mirdamadi, who, despite parliamentary immunity, was sentenced in May 2002 to 6 months in jail and banned from practicing journalism for 4 years for "insulting the state, publishing lies, and insulting Islamic institutions." At year's end, there were no reports that Mirdamadi had been imprisoned; however, the newspaper has never re-opened.

In January 2003, the newspaper Hayat-e No was banned and editor Alireza Eshraghi arrested after the paper reprinted a 1937 U.S. cartoon about President Franklin Roosevelt's battle with the Supreme Court. The authorities deemed that the judge portrayed too closely resembled the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Eshraghi was released on bail for $31,400 (25 million Tomans) in March 2003, after spending all his jail time in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. The daily Hamshahri was also temporarily suspended in January 2003 after refusing to print an article from the chief of a state-run trade union. Hamshahri was apparently shut for 5 days; however, Hayat-e No remained closed at year's end.

In January 2003, the Press Court also closed the reformist daily Bahar after the newspaper ran an article about a company whose shareholders include former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, former judiciary head Ayatollah Yazdi, and Ahmad Jannati, head of the Legislative Branch's Guardians Council. Bahar was first closed in 2000 and had only re-opened in December 2002. The newspaper remained closed throughout the year.

In February 2003, according to AI, Abbas Abdi and Hussein Qazian were sentenced to 8 and 9 years, respectively, in the National Institute for Research Studies and Opinion Polls case. In April 2003, an appeals court reduced the sentences to 4 years and 6 months for each. The third defendant in the case, Behrouz Geranpayeh, was reportedly released on bail in January 2003, pending a final ruling. The case originated in October 2002, when the judicial authorities closed the Institute, which had found in a poll commissioned by the Majlis that a majority of citizens supported dialogue with the United States. The defendants were charged with spying for the United States, illegal contacts with foreign embassies, working with anti-regime groups, and carrying out research on the order of a foreign polling organization. Government intelligence officials publicly stated that the accused were not spies. According to press reports, President Khatami also rejected the charges, stating that the Intelligence and Foreign Ministries had cleared the pollsters' work. Reformist parliamentarians were reportedly barred from the court, and the defendants were not allowed to see their families or their attorneys. At year's end, the defendants remained in jail.

In May 2003, a government spokesman acknowledged state attempts to block access to "immoral" websites. The judiciary also announced the creation of a special unit to handle Internet-related issues. According to press reporting, the judiciary highlighted over 20 subject areas to be blocked, including: insulting Islam; opposing the Constitution; insulting the Supreme Leader or making false accusations about officials; undermining national unity and solidarity; creating pessimism among the population regarding the Islamic system; and propagating prostitution and drugs.

In October 2003, RSF reported that the Government closed the newspaper Avay-e Kordestan, marking the first time a Kurdish language newspaper was banned in the country.

The Government directly controlled and maintained a monopoly over all television and radio broadcasting facilities; programming reflected the Government's political and socio-religious ideology. Because newspapers and other print media had a limited circulation outside large cities, radio and television served as the principal news source for many citizens. Satellite dishes that received foreign television broadcasts were forbidden; however, many citizens, particularly the wealthy, owned them. In December 2002, the Majlis passed a bill legalizing private ownership of satellite receiving equipment. However, the Council of Guardians rejected the legislation in January 2003 on constitutional and religious grounds. The Government reportedly acted to block foreign satellite transmissions during the year using powerful jamming signals (see Section 1.f.).

The Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance was in charge of screening books prior to publication to ensure that they did not contain offensive material. However, some books and pamphlets critical of the Government were published without reprisal. The Ministry inspected foreign printed materials prior to their release on the market. In August 2003, author of "Iran's Women Musicians," Toka Maleki, its publisher Jaafar Homai, and cultural critic Banafsheh Samgis received prison terms for publishing and publicly commenting on the book, which was deemed to contain "lies" about Islamic history. The translator of the book, "Women behind Veil and Well-Dressed Men," Maliheh Moghazei and Ministry of Culture and the Islamic Guidance Director General Majid Sayyad also received prison terms in connection with the book's publication.

The Government effectively censored domestic films, since it remained the main source of production funding. Producers must submit scripts and film proposals to government officials in advance of funding approval. In April, "Lizard," a film indirectly satirizing the clerical class, was released. It was withdrawn from circulation in May, and the screenwriter, director, producer, and star were banned briefly from travel abroad. Since the release and subsequent banning of this film, government restrictions over film have intensified.

The Government restricted academic freedom. Government informers were common on university campuses. Admission to universities was politicized; all applicants had to pass "character tests" in which officials screened out applicants critical of the Government's ideology. To obtain tenure, professors had to refrain from criticism of the authorities.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution permits assemblies and marches "provided they do not violate the principles of Islam"; however, in practice the Government restricted freedom of assembly and closely monitored gatherings to prevent anti-government protest. Such gatherings included public entertainment and lectures, student gatherings, labor protests, funeral processions, and Friday prayer gatherings.

During a wave of student protests in June 2003, government-supported vigilantes beat many protestors, and police arrested approximately 4,000 persons according to government figures shortly after the protests. Although the police arrested both protestors and vigilantes, the overwhelming majority of those arrested were protestors. Approximately 130 of those arrested during these protests were still in detention as of December. The Government banne
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