July 14, 2005

Iran says hunger-striking journalist being treated

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's judiciary said on Thursday
hunger-striking jailed journalist Akbar Ganji, who the European
Union and the White House have demanded be freed, was receiving
medical treatment and would not be released.

"He is under special medical care ... and the prison
physicians examine him two or three times a day," Mohammad
Salarkia, deputy head of Tehran Justice Department, told the
official IRNA news agency.

An outspoken critic of the Islamic state's clerical
leadership, Ganji was sentenced to six years in prison in 2001
following a series of articles he wrote linking senior
officials to the murder of political dissidents.

Ganji's family and rights activists say Ganji has lost more
than 40 pounds (18 kg) during a month-long hunger strike aimed
at pressuring authorities to grant him unconditional release.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday Ganji's life was in

"The Iranian judiciary's refusal to release Ganji for
medical treatment is cruel and inhumane," said Sarah Leah
Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based rights

The White House issued a statement on Tuesday calling for
Ganji's release and criticizing Iran for denying him access to
medical treatment, his family and legal representation.

A group of hardline parliamentarians visited Ganji at
Tehran's Evin prison on Wednesday in a bid to persuade him to
end his hunger strike.

Reformist President Mohammad Khatami urged the judiciary on
Wednesday to grant Ganji parole in view of the fact that he had
just six months of his sentence left to complete.

But Salarkia from Tehran Justice Department said Ganji
would not be freed because of his hunger strike.

"We are very unhappy with the conditions Ganji has created
for himself but he is a prisoner who should complete his prison
term. A prisoner cannot be released for going on hunger
strike," he said.

Judiciary officials had previously denied Ganji was on
hunger strike.