Reporters Without Borders

Activist dies in fight with intelligence officials during journalist father's funeral

Activist dies in fight with intelligence officials during journalist father’s funeral

Published on Wednesday 1 June 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn Haleh Sahabi, an activist and contributor to the magazine Chashm Andaz (Panorama), died in hospital after being hit hard in the stomach earlier today when she, fellow family members and friends resisted attempts by security officials to stop the funeral of her father, Ezatollah Sahabi, a leading opposition figure and onetime editor of the monthly Iran-é-Farda.

“We address our most sincere condolences to the Sahabi family for this double tragedy,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Iran has lost a great defender of freedom of expression and the regime has killed his daughter, an active defender of the families of political prisoners. We will not forget this crime. The two press freedom predators at the head of the Islamic Republic (http://en.rsf.org/predator-ali-kham...) are responsible for this courageous woman’s death."

“We insist that the authorities shed light on all the circumstances of this murder. Those responsible must be tried and sentenced. The violence that the regime uses against its opponents is appalling. It not only bans all of their activities but also tries to erase them from society and the collective memory.”

Aged 56, Haleh Sahabi had known the suffering of the families of prisoners of conscience all her life. Since her childhood, her father and other relatives had spent spells in prison under two successive regimes. As her result of her activities in support of the families of political prisoners who had been executed during the 1980s, she became a spokesperson for the victims of political oppression – something the regime could not tolerate.

After being summoned and arrested several times, she was sentenced to two years in prison. While still serving this sentence, she had been granted a provisional release because of her father’s serious health problems and hospitalization.

Her father helped to found Iran-é-Farda, one of Iran’s first independent newspapers. Published from 1992 to May 2000, when it was closed by the authorities, it was widely read in reformist circles and was very popular with students.

A Tehran revolutionary court placed Ezatollah Sahabi in detention on 26 June 2000 for attending an allegedly “anti-Islamic” conference in Berlin the previous April. He was jailed again on a charge of “anti-government propaganda” on 17 December 2000, above all because of a speech he had given at Tehran’s Amir-Kabir Technical University three weeks earlier, and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on 13 January 2001.

After a prison visit in February 2001, his family said it was “shocked” by his physical and mental condition and the fact that he did not even recognize his relatives. He was hospitalized twice while detained, after suffering heart attacks. His sentence was reduced to six months in December 2001 and he was finally released on 2 March 2002.

His and his daughter’s deaths leave a void in the pro-democracy movement and fight for freedom of expression in Iran.

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