"The reason I have stood firm is to show that it is possible to stand against darkness and ruthlessness." Akbar Ganji, July 2005
Akbar Ganji is one of Iran's leading investigative journalists and author of the book Dungeon of Ghosts,
a compilation of his newspaper articles, in which he implicated the
former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and other leading
conservative figures in the murders of five writers and intellectuals
in 1998. The book is said to have seriously damaged the reputation of
Rafsanjani, and is thought to have been a major factor in the
conservative defeat in the parliamentary elections of February 2000.
Ganji was arrested in April 2000 following his participation in a
conference held in Berlin during which political and social reform in
Iran were publicly debated. In January 2001 he was sentenced to ten
years' imprisonment plus five years of internal exile. He was
reportedly detained incommunicado for 80 days, and allegedly tortured
In May 2001, an appellate court reduced the journalist's sentence
on appeal to six months' imprisonment and overturned his sentence of
five years in exile. The Supreme Court, however, overturned the
appellate court's decision and referred the case to a different appeals
court, whose decision was to sentence Ganji to six years in prison.
On 19 May 2005, Ganji began a hunger strike that was to last on and
off for almost three months. At the end of May, he was granted prison
leave for medical treatment, but used the opportunity to call for a
boycott of Iran's June presidential election. The journalist supposedly
went missing on 7 June, which led to an issuing of a warrant for his
arrest. He was returned to Tehran's Evin Prison on 11 June, 2005.
Upon his return to prison, Ganji resumed his hunger strike, which
he carried out for more than two months, ending up in hospital due to
malnutrition and poor health. The journalist lost more than 25 kg
during this period. He ended the hunger strike and on 3 September was
discharged from hospital and returned to Evin prison.
Ganji has defiantly refused to renounce his critique of the state,
even if it could win his release. In a letter recently smuggled out of
prison, the journalist wrote: "Let it be known that if learning my
lesson is to denounce my previous opinions, Ganji will never learn his
Ganji was released from prison on 17 March, 2006. He spent his
remaining months of detention in solitary confinement. Conflicting
reports have emerged from Iran concerning the status and permanence of
the journalist's release.
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