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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Iran reformist jailed for six years
Akbar Ganji
Ganji (right) cannot appeal against the sentence
An appeals court in Iran has extended the prison sentence imposed on a prominent Iranian journalist, Akbar Ganji, from six months to six years.

Ganji, a supporter of the reform movement in Iran, was convicted of damaging state security by attending a conference in Berlin on the future of Iran.

President Khatami
Dozens of Mr Khatami's supporters are still in jail
BBC Iran analyst Sadeq Sabeh says the sentence is a blow to President Mohammed Khatami, who has promised more openness and the rule of law.

In May, the 10-year sentence, followed by five years' internal exile, was reduced on appeal to six months in jail.

But despite the appeal Ganji remained in prison facing other charges.

Prosecutors then took the case to a higher court, which imposed a harsher penalty.

A court statement said that the ruling was definitive and therefore not subject to further appeal.

Clampdown

Our correspondent says Ganji made enemies by naming members of the conservative establishment as being responsible for the killing of dissidents and intellectuals.

Berlin conference
The Berlin conference was interrupted by opposition groups
Since the election in 1997 of reformist President Khatami, around 40 mostly pro-reform newspapers have been shut down.

Dozens of Mr Khatami's supporters have been jailed or remanded in custody on subversion charges.

A number were convicted as a result of their attending the Berlin conference last year, which was branded as anti-Iranian after being disrupted by émigré groups.

And despite the president's landslide re-election last month, a French-based press defence group said that the plight of journalists was worsening in Iran.

A statement by Reporters sans Frontieres described Iran as "the largest prison for journalists in the world", adding that of 27 journalists known to be in jail, 21 were being held in unknown locations.

Ganji has been in prison for the last fifteen months and he has accused prison authorities of torturing him.

He has been on hunger strike several times to protest at his detention in solitary confinement in a Tehran prison.

See also:

11 Jun 01 | Middle East
Poll boosts Khatami reform bid
21 Oct 00 | Middle East
'Moderate' paper faces Iranian court
13 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iranian MPs pledge to continue reform
20 Apr 00 | Middle East
Court summons for Iranian reformists
08 Jun 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Iran's political prisoners
14 May 01 | Middle East
Press caught in a power struggle
13 Jan 01 | Middle East
Conference that created a furore
04 Oct 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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