Iranian reformist editor jailed for Islam challenge
By Ali Raiss-Tousi
TEHRAN, April 10 (Reuters) - An Iranian editor who challenged the Islamic
law of retribution was jailed on Monday after losing an appeal against
a 30-month sentence imposed for criticising capital punishment.
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Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a leading reformist, was jailed for offending
religious values after the appeal court upheld the sentence imposed by
a hardline press court, his colleagues at Asr-e Azadegan newspaper told
The charges stem from an article criticising capital punishment, published
in his previous newspaper Neshat, which was closed by the press court last
September and are the latest in a series of blows against the reformist
movement in Iran.
The special press court charged the editor with questioning the Islamic
law of retribution, summed up in the injunction ``an eye for an eye.''
Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, overseeing Iran's blossoming press,
expressed concern over Shamsolvaezin's arrest but said that he could not
do anything to help him.
``I am saddened by the fact that a prominent journalist is being sent
to prison...(but) I can not do anything for him,'' Mohajerani told a news
``The realisation and institutionalisation of freedom is a lengthy process,''
Under existing Iranian law, a newspaper's publisher - not the individual
writer or editor - is legally responsible for the content of all published
Over the past two years, Shamsolvaezin had led the reformist and popular
Jameah, Tous and Neshat dailies, all banned by the conservative-led judiciary,
before opening Asr-e Azadegan.
PROTECT PRESS FREEDOM
In a recent open letter to moderate President Mohammad Khatami, Shamsolvaezin
appealed for protection from hardliners' pressure.
``Either tell us that our press activities are illegal... or tell us
clearly from which government body we are to get the minimum of political
and professional security to continue our work,'' he said in the letter,
written jointly with fellow editor Hamid-Reza Jalaeipour.
A similar plea was made to Iran's new judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud
The move to jail him on the grounds of insulting Islamic values is the
latest in a series of blows to the reform movement struggling against Iran's
Iran's courts have closed several pro-reform publications and banned
some of their publishers from press activities.
But their journalists have often launched new publications, using liberal
licensing rules introduced by Khatami, who was elected on a reform platform