July 12, 2005

W.House urges release of jailed Iran journalist

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday expressed
solidarity with jailed Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who is
on a hunger strike, and urged human rights groups and the
United Nations to push for his release.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan also said in a
statement that President Bush was concerned about the health of
Ganji, an outspoken critic of the Islamic state's clerical
leadership who was jailed for alleging links between officials
and the murders of political dissidents.

"Through his now monthlong hunger strike, Mr. Ganji is
demonstrating that he is willing to die for his right to
express his opinion," McClellan said.

"President Bush is saddened by recent reports that Mr.
Ganji's health has been failing and deeply concerned that the
Iranian government has denied him access to his family, medical
treatment and legal representation," he added.

The statement also had a message for Ganji that "America
stands with you."

The statement came after about 150 people held a
demonstration in Tehran calling for Ganji's release. A Reuters
journalist saw police beat several of the protesters.

McClellan said the United Nations and human rights groups
should "take up Ganji's case and the overall human rights
situation in Iran."

He said Iran should release Ganji unconditionally from his
six-year jail sentence.

Ganji's family and lawyers say he is suffering from poor
health and needs medical treatment outside prison. They say he
has been on a hunger strike for more than 30 days.

Iranian judiciary officials say Ganji is in good health and
is not on a hunger strike.