Iran Cracks Down on Dissenters

In Iran, journalists, reformers, and student activists feared that the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might lead to repressive policies and restrictions. After a year of comparative calm, however, observers say that it now appears that their fears were justified.

Iran's government has recently jailed several prominent students and activists — and at least one has died in prison under mysterious circumstances.

Within the past three months, at least two political deaths have occurred in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. One was a longtime political prisoner who the authorities said suffered a heart attack during a hunger strike.

Another was Akbar Mohammadi, a student activist who has been in and out of prisons for the past six years. He, too, died during a hunger strike. Mohammadi was buried before his parents could see his body, prompting suspicions that he was tortured or beaten.

As for the crackdown on journalists, the government has just closed Iran's most prominent and popular daily newspaper, Shargh, which means "East" in Farsi. The offending material, according to sources in Iran, was a front-page cartoon depicting President Ahmadinejad as a donkey.

The government also convicted a prominent reform journalist, Issa Saharkhiz, for his critical writing about Iran's Supreme Religious Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Saharkhiz is appealing his case and remains out of prison for the moment.

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