November 3, 2005

US says Iran damages jailed journalist’s health

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States accused Iran on
Thursday of mistreating a jailed journalist so badly his health
was at serious risk, in a case that has drawn worldwide
condemnation of the Islamic republic.

Washington, which is locked in a dispute with Iran over
Tehran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear bomb and persistently
complains about its human rights record, said Akbar Ganji's
wife and nongovernmental groups reported his deteriorating

"His maltreatment at the hands of his captors has led him
to the point where his health is at serious risk," State
Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

McCormack said he did not know what health problem Ganji
had developed nor whether it was life-threatening.

The United States, the European Union, U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and human rights groups have
called for Ganji's release. He was jailed in 2000 after writing
a series of articles linking senior officials to the murder of
political dissidents.

Ganji also fell gravely ill in July, weakened by a hunger
strike aimed at persuading authorities to free him.

Iran has rejected calls for his release and told foreign
countries not to meddle.

The Iranian judiciary has faced domestic and international
criticism for its poor human rights record while judiciary
officials say they have been trying hard to reform.

With the United States at odds with Iran over its nuclear
programs, anti-Israel policies and rights record, a senior
State Department official acknowledged Thursday's pressure
could lead to retaliation against Ganji.

"Our calculation is that this is an important moment to
focus" international attention on his case, said the official,
who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to be able to
elaborate on the public U.S. position.