Thursday, August 04, 2005

Judge in Iran Who Sentenced Journalist Akbar Ganji Is Slain - New York Times

Judge in Iran Who Sentenced Journalist Is Slain - New York Times: "Judge in Iran Who Sentenced Journalist Is Slain

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: August 3, 2005
TEHRAN, Aug. 2 - An Iranian judge who presided over the high-profile trial and conviction of an Iranian journalist five years ago was assassinated by a gunman on a motorcycle in central Tehran on Tuesday.

Assassination attempts are rare in Iran. This is the first such attack since 1999, when a general, Ali Sayyad Shirazi, was gunned down. An Iranian opposition group in exile, the People's Mujahedeen, took responsibility for that killing.

Witnesses to the killing on Tuesday told the police that around 4 p.m. a gunman sped toward the judge, Massoud Moqadasi, who was also a deputy prosecutor, and shot him twice in the head in his car before fleeing. The killing took place near Argentine Square in central Tehran.

Why Mr. Moqadasi, who primarily handled cases of social vice, became a target was not immediately clear. The Tehran police chief, Morteza Talai, told the news agency ISNA that the police were checking the judge's recent cases in search of a motive. Mr. Moqadasi sentenced the journalist, Akbar Ganji, in 2000 to 10 years in prison and 5 years' exile in southern Iran for violating Iran's national security and releasing classified information after Mr. Ganji had reported that intelligence officials had murdered five Iranian dissidents in 1998. An appeals court reduced Mr. Ganji's sentence to six years in jail.

Mr. Ganji, 46, who has been in jail since July 2001, began a hunger strike more than 50 days ago, demanding his unconditional release. He is currently hospitalized in Tehran, where the government says he is receiving nutrition intravenously. Senior leaders, including President Mohammad Khatami, have called for his release. Apparently there was an agreement last week to release him but the judicial officials reversed course after Mr. Ganji wrote two letters calling on Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to resign."