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Press court deals with woman editor in three hours

TEHRAN, Nov 15 (AFP) - Iran's press court Monday took just three hours to hear charges against a female newspaper editor accused of 15 different offences including the publication of anti-Islamic articles.

Jaleh Oskui, 40, head of the banned Penj-Shanbeh-ha (Thursdays) weekly, appeared without a defence lawyer before press court judge Said Mortazavi. (Related photo: here)

The indictment read by the judge included "the publication of false news (and) provocative headlines, misleading the readership, as well as insulting Islamic sanctities and the publication of anti-Islamic articles."

Oskui rejected the accusations, particularly the allegation of publishing provocative headlines, saying: "That belongs to the profession of any journalist. "Headlines are chosen to attract attention and are not necessarily aimed at misleading the readership."

Mortazavi closed the hearing after three hours, and the seven jury members said they would announce their findings later in the day. The judge, who under Iranian law is not bound to follow the jury, will issue his verdict within a week.

Oskui was arrested last October 10 and held in jail until October 18 before being freed on bail.

It was the first time a female editor has been jailed in the running battle between the reformist press and Iran's conservative courts and parliament.

The conservative-dominated judiciary has cracked down this year on the pro-reform press that supports President Mohammad Khatami, closing four leading newspapers and arresting or jailing dozens of journalists.

Mortazavi, who has presided over many of the trials, on Sunday wound up hearings against veteran reformist newspaper editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, giving him five days to provide a written defence, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The trial took three days, during which Shamsolvaezin questioned the authority of the court and the honesty of the judge, and had one of his lawyers jailed five days for contempt.

Shamsolvaezin faces charges of fraud and "insulting Islamic sanctities" over articles published in his since-banned daily Neshat, notably one questioning the validity of the death penalty and Iran's "eye-for-an-eye" law of retribution.

Neshat was banned in September in what its editors said was a "political coup" designed to muzzle the reformist press ahead of crucial parliamentary elections in February.


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