Reformist journalist freed on bail in Iran

AFP
File photo of Iranian capital Tehran, pictured on January 7, 2013
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File photo of Iranian capital Tehran, pictured on January 7, 2013 (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Tehran (AFP) - An Iranian journalist who covered parliament for pro-reform media has been released on bail almost three months after being detained, her lawyer said on Thursday.

Saba Azarpeyk was freed late Wednesday on bail of two billion rials ($65,000), set by prosecutors overseeing crimes related to media and culture, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaie told the official news agency IRNA.

She is accused of "propaganda against the regime," the lawyer said.

Azarpeyk was arrested on 28 May at her home.

She reported on parliament for several pro-reform outlets, including the prominent Etemad newspaper.

Azarpeyk was among 18 journalists for reformist media who were arrested in January 2013 for allegedly working for the Farsi-language services of foreign media deemed hostile by the authorities. She was freed several weeks later.

The BBC's Persian service, Voice of America and the Iranian branch of Radio Free Europe have all been accused by Tehran of participating in a Western "plot" to destabilise the regime.

President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate, has promised greater tolerance on social, cultural and media issues -- a pledge that helped him defeat conservatives in last June's election.

But the fledgling opening has been opposed by traditionalists and ultra-conservatives who hold sway over several key institutions.

Conservative newspapers as well as reformist ones have faced temporary bans from the conservative-controlled judiciary since Rouhani took office but three pro-reform titles are under continuing bans.

United Nations human rights experts have expressed alarm at a recent flurry of arrests and harsh sentences inflicted on journalists in Iran.

Last month, three journalists -- including the Washington Post's Tehran correspondent -- were arrested. On Monday, an official said they were being held for security reasons.

Observers say they fear the journalists' arrests could undermine the thorny negotiations between Iran and the West for a comprehensive nuclear deal that world powers are seeking to reach by November 24.

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