August 7, 2005

Iran’s Ebadi urges dissident to end hunger strike

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian human rights lawyer and 2003
Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi on Sunday urged her
client, dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, to end a 58-day-old
hunger strike undertaken in protest at his imprisonment.

"I am worried about Ganji's health. Right now, what matters
is his life," Ebadi, who has written to Ganji to convey her
message, told Reuters. "As one of his lawyers ... I sincerely
urge Ganji to end his hunger strike and eat food."

Ganji, 46, an outspoken critic of the Islamic state's
clerical leadership, was transferred from prison to a Tehran
hospital last month as his health deteriorated.

Ebadi also criticized Iran's judiciary for refusing to
allow her to visit Ganji. "This is unlawful," she said.

Ganji's wife, Masoumeh Shafiee, and Ebadi have been unable
to see him for more than a week.

A journalist who tried to visit Ganji in the hospital two
weeks ago, was arrested on charges of "illegal journalistic
activities," the semi-official ILNA news agency said. He was
released from Tehran's Evin prison on Saturday.

On Saturday, Shafiee called on Ganji's friends to try to
persuade him to end the hunger strike, which he says is a
protest against the authorities' refusal to release him on
grounds of ill-health.

A former hardline Revolutionary Guard turned reformer,
Ganji was jailed in 2001 following a series of articles he
wrote linking officials to the murder of political dissidents.

The White House and the European Union have each called on
Iran to release him immediately on humanitarian grounds.