Iran‘s official news agency chief to appeal jail verdict as 41 reporters arrested

Iran‘s official news agency chief to appeal jail verdict as 41 reporters arrested

The chief of Iran's official news agency IRNA said Monday that he would appeal the one-year jail verdict issued by a Tehran court against him for having acted against Islamic norms, dpa reported.

Ali-Akbar Javanfekr had been found guilty of having published an article and pictures in the IRNA-affiliated magazine Khatoun which were indecent and contrary to Islamic norms.

Javanfekr, who is also the main press adviser of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and one of his closest aides, was also banned from any journalistic activity for three years.

"I will appeal and protest against the verdict," Javanfekr said in a press conference.

"Everybody in Iran should be allowed to freely express his standpoints and there should tolerance rather than suffocation of opinions," Javanfekr said.

Mehr news agency reported that following the press conference, police and security forces then again arrested Javanfekr in his office in the IRNA building.

Javanfekr stayed handcuffed for hours in his office until government officials could persuade the judiciary to revise the arrest warrant and set the IRNA chief free, Mehr said.

IRNA news agency reported meanwhile that by order of the judiciary, security forces raided the building of the IRNA affiliated news daily Iran and arrested 41 reporters, including the paper's chief editor Mosayeb Naeimi.

During the raid one reporter was even injured, IRNA said.

Naeimi and 30 of the arrested reporters have in the meantime been released but ten of them remained in jail.

IRNA is the country's official news agency and its head is appointed by the culture minister after approval of the president.

The jail sentence for Javanfekr, who had in recent years turned IRNA into a mouthpiece for the president, is seen by observers as continuation of the internal power struggle between the pro-Ahmadinejad camp and the conservative faction, which has the majority in parliament.

Both factions have been involved since April in a war of words which is expected to continue until the March 2 parliamentary elections next year.

Some observers believe that the jail term for Javanfekr was due to his interview with the opposition daily Etemad, in which he had acknowledged the deviation of the pro-Ahmadinejad wing from the policies of the conservatives.

The daily Etemad was also ordered by the Tehran prosecutor to be shut down for two months for alleged distribution of lies and insults to officials. The actual reason is however believed to be the interview with Javanfekr.

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