04-12-09, 07:31 PM #1
Detention as a means of political silencingSamieh Jabbarin, 41-years old, a citizen of Israel native of Um al Fahm, is a theater and film director. He was professionally and academically trained in Germany and is currently completing his Masters degree at the Theater Arts Department of Tel Aviv University. Upon his return to his native country, he settled in Jaffa and, among other things, engaged in the struggle against the current wave of attempts to evict Arab-Palestinian residents. Samieh is also active in the Abna al Balad movement and was among the organizers of last year's Haifa conference on the Right of Return and a secular democratic state. Last December he helped organize public mourning rallies and non-violent protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
In January 2009, Samieh was warned by the Security Services that a way will be found to punish him for this civil and political activity. The opportunity presented itself on February 10th, general election day in Israel. A group of extreme rightist fanatics announced their intention to serve as official monitors of the voting process in Um al Fahm, second largest Arab city in Israel. Samieh, a native of this town, joined residents in a protest demonstration. He was arrested along with a fellow-resident minutes after the event began. On the very next day - in unprecedented haste - detailed charges were presented at the Hadera court against him for supposedly assaulting the Chief of the Northern Border Patrol, Commander Uri Mor-Yossef.
All attempts to disprove and deny such outright deception have been in vain. The open 'secret' is that Israeli police video-document all demonstrations and arrests.
In this case, however, no evidence was produced beyond the police officer's own statement.
Samieh was held prisoner in Kishon Prison under harsh conditions for seventeen days, and following a legal struggle, was transferred to strict house-arrest at his parents' home in Um al Fahm. Two family members must be with him at all times, and an electronic shackle is attached to his ankle.
Officially, this ruling is in force "until the end of the legal proceedings". These proceedings, however, have come to a strange near-halt: in sharp contrast to the speed with which it charged him, the system is in no hurry to expose the prosecution's evidence at an open trial. The prosecution "forgot" to summon Samieh and his attorneys to the indictment last month. Consequently, another indictment has been set for April 27th and who knows how many months will elapse until the trial itself.
Thus, Samieh Jabbarin is denied access to his creative work, his studies, and his normal living environment. His fate also serves as a blatant warning to intimidate other social and political activists.
04-12-09, 08:32 PM #2
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The first line of his first blog from Tehran in September 2006 asks: "What is freedom?"
Omidreza Mirsayafi answered his own question. "I don't know," he wrote, "but I know someday I will see its shadow falling on my land."
Two and half years later, from behind the gray walls of Tehran's Evin Prison, he phoned his mother. They talked about his battle with depression behind bars. She asked if he was taking his heart medicine.
A few hours later, on a chilly mid-March evening, the 29-year-old Mirsayafi was dead. He was Iran's first known casualty in the skirmishes between bloggers challenging the Islamic regime and authorities striking back with the tools they know best — imprisonment and intimidation.
This showdown has been building for years in Iran, with bloggers and social network sites becoming the main outlet for everything from hard-edged political dissent to underground videos and music. The role of Iranian bloggers as liberal opinion-shapers could intensify ahead of June 12 elections that will decide whether arch-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad remains for another four years. The outcome also could set the tone for Washington's overtures for dialogue with Tehran, which has so far resisted Western pressure for greater press and Internet freedoms.
"Omidreza is a symbol of many things," said Jillian York, a project coordinator at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, who exchanged e-mails with Mirsayafi in the months before his death. "He is a symbol of the free speech battles within Iran and a symbol that it would get worse."
Dozens of activists are now jailed in Iran, including at least two prominent bloggers. One of them, Hussein Derakhshan, helped ignite the Iranian blog boom in 2001 by posting simple instructions to create sites in Farsi.
What makes Mirsayafi stand out, however, was not his notoriety. It's just the opposite. Mirsayafi had a modest — what could even be called irrelevant — presence in the Iranian blogosphere.
"Omidreza was just an ordinary blogger," said Farhad Moradian, an Iranian Jewish emigre to Israel who writes a blog from Tel Aviv. "This is the big alarm."
A Facebook page in Mirsayafi's memory was formed after his death March 18. It was filled with condolences, rants and shared apprehension.
Said one entry: The "next Mirsayafi could be me."...
...Mohammed Ali Abtahi, who was a pioneer political blogger as vice president under former President Mohammad Khatami, worries that the assault on Iranian blogs could leave them sanitized of any genuine discourse.
"If the authorities continue with their reprisals, bloggers will start to censor themselves and we'll see only nonpolitical subjects," he said.
But Tehran-based bloggers such as Askan Monfared show no sign of cooling down. He believes the Islamic regime is panicked by its inability to control the Web as it does the mainstream media.
"They cannot distinguish between what's insulting and what is legitimate critique," he said. "There is no civil society until we reach that point."...
04-12-09, 08:38 PM #3
04-12-09, 11:15 PM #4
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