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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Iran: One Iranian imprisoned every 47 seconds, while Hundreds sign appeal for free elections

Tehran, 5 May (AKI) - Iranian jails are increasingly overcrowded with a new prisoner "crossing the threshold into one of the country's jails every 47 seconds," according to Naser Jafargholi, the director general for the programming of penal institutions in Iran.

At present, there are 130,000 people detained in Iran, one for every 524 Iranians. This is one of the highest ratios of the proportion of population jailed in a country.

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He announced that authorities are dealing with the emergency through the construction of a new jail, but he also claimed that the situation of congested prisons is even worse in some other countries. At present, there are 130,000 people detained in Iran, one for every 524 Iranians, Jafargholi said.

More than 250 academics, lawyers and journalists have signed an open letter calling for free elections in Iran, the abolition of the hardline Guardian Council, and the immediate liberation of the country's estimated 200 political prisoners. Iran's former foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi and the award-winning translator from Italian to Farsi, Farina Davoodi Mohajer, have also signed the letter.

Reformists in Iran fear the Guardian Council - an unelected body - will bar reformist candidates from running in Iran's 17 June presidential elections, as occurred in the country's last parliamentary elections, when the Guardian Council banned more than 70 percent of candidates, almost all of whom were liberal. This cleared the way for conservative and radical Islamist MPs to pack the Majils - Iran's parliament.

The letter's signatories argue that only the sovereign Iranian people can select the best candidate to lead the country. The Guardian Council can block all legislation, aswell as candidates running for office in any election.

The Guardian Council comprises six hard-line clerics appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and six lawyers selected by parliament from a list presented by the judiciary's head - who Khamenei also appoints.

Story Credits: ADNKI and ADNKI

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