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23 March 2006

Ambeyi Ligaob, the Special Rapporteur on on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued the following statement today:

I warmly welcome the release of journalist and writer Akbar Ganji, whom I met in November 2003 at the Evin Prison while visiting the Islamic Republic of Iran in my capacity as Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and Expression. Mr. Ganji was arrested in April 2000 on charges of attempt on State’s security, propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its values, participation to an international conference, and ultimately convicted to six years of detention. His release was thus long-overdue as he had served almost all his six-year prison term.

Together with other Special Procedures mandate holders, I had been seized with Mr. Ganji’s case and we had expressed concern over his situation on various occasions. Recently, in July 2005, we had intervened to ensure that he received the necessary medical attention and treatment to attenuate the noxious effects of the solitary confinement, and on 16 September 2005, I issued a statement in which I insisted with the Iranian authorities on his immediate and unconditional release. Other action taken regarding Mr. Ganji’s case is summarized in my report on communications E/CN.4/2006/55/Add.1.

Mr. Ganji is now a free man. His strength and determination can be an example and an encouragement for the numerous intellectuals, students, journalists, writers and trade unionists still imprisoned because of their opinions. On the eve of a new era for human rights marked by the establishment of the Human Rights Council, promotion of freedom of opinion and expression and protection of its supporters seem, more than ever, absolutely essential to the advancement of democracy and human rights worldwide.