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Maziar Bahari: released from Iran prison

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 08 October 2009

Journalist, filmmaker and regular contributor to Channel 4 News, Maziar Bahari has been released from solitary confinement since being arrested in Iran in June.

Maziar Bahari

The Newsweek journalist has flown to London to be with his wife after a four month ordeal, the magazine said today. Bahari was arrested in Tehran following the disputed presidential election in June.

In a statement Newsweek said: "We are delighted to announce that Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari has arrived in London in time to witness the upcoming birth of his first child.

"The editors of Newsweek, Maziar, and his bride Paola Gourley would like to thank the thousands of friends, colleagues and well-wishers around the world whose support over the last few months has helped to make this moment possible".

Earlier this year tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Iran disputing the outcome of the county's presidential election.

As accredited Tehran correspondant for Newsweek Maziar Bahari, 42, reported and filmed the events like many other journalists. Some of his footage was shown on Channel 4 News.

On the morning of 21 June Bahari - whose journalism has been accredited by the Iranian authorities for over a decade - was seized at his 83-year-old mother's house in Tehran, arrested and detained in solitary confinement.

No specific charges were made against him and he had no access to a lawyer.

In August Bahari appeared on Iranian state news as one of about 100 defendants in what Newsweek called a "show trial staged in Tehran".

According to state news, Maziar "confessed" that in some of his reports he may have "unknowingly" helped an alleged conspiracy to undermine the regime through protest.

Many of the defendants delivered courtroom confessions admitting to their roles - statements the opposition says were coerced. Bahari's two appearances, his family believe, were under duress.

Bahari was allowed to meet with his mother and brother-in-law on four occasions and allowed to speak briefly on the phone twice to his pregnant British partner Paola Gourley.

She remained in London desperate for his release ahead of the birth of their first child.

Bahari's Work

As well as being a regular contributor to Channel 4 News Bahari - who has duel Canadian-Iranian citizenship - works as Newsweek's Tehran correspondent, is an award-winning filmmaker, has written plays and fiction and has curated numerous exhibitions showcasing Iranian arts.


His award-winning films from Iran give a unique insight into his nation whilst illustrating the Islamic Republic with a sense of balance and sensitivity.

An exhibition on a book he co-authored was shown in London on 7 October. The book, called Transit Tehran, showcases a collection of Iranian art, photos and video.

Nicholas Glass went to report on the exhibition.

"No threat whatsoever"

Almost three months after Bahari's imprisonment Jon Snow spoke to Paola Gourley at their home in London about the ordeal.

Heavily pregnant with the couple's first child Gourley had been under immense stress since her husband's arrest and faced complications with her pregnancy.

Their baby is due to be delivered two weeks early by caesarean section at the end of October.

"I'm having to be monitored quite a lot because of the stresses and anxiety. It's been awful," said Gourley.

"Apart from the anxiety about Maziar's condition - for the first month he was detained I didn't even know where he was so there was a lot of stress. And now I really miss him so much and it's not just me who's suffering."

Jon Snow asked Gourley what she would ask the Iranian authorities if she had the chance.

She said: "I would ask for them to release Maziar as soon as possible. This is our first baby, I would really like the baby and father to be together, I want him to be there for the birth.

"I want the Iranian government to realise that Maziar is a very fair and balanced reporter and is not a threat to national security whatsoever."

Personal ordeal

Gourley had a short conversation with Bahari on Sunday 4 October - only their second phone call since his arrest. Associated Press reported Bahari's anguish at finding out about the pregnancy complications.

"Paola Gourley could hear the shock in her husband's voice when she told him she would be having the baby two weeks early during a rare phone call Sunday from Tehran's Evin Prison. ""What's wrong with you?" he kept asking."


The article went on to say that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been "noncommittal" when asked about political prisoners being held. Speaking directly about Bahari, he told Newsweek, "I would like all prisoners to be released, but I am not the judge. The judge has to decide on this."

Newsweek had pressed for Bahari's release since his detention. As they reported on 8 October the United States asked authorities to "immediately release" Bahari and another detainee, American-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, when representatives met to discuss Iran's nuclear programme in Geneva.

"The State Department says it pressed Iran on its human-rights record when representatives of the two countries sat at the negotiating table to discuss Iran's nuclear program in Geneva last week. So far, Iran hasn't taken any action," the article said.

For more information

Free Maziar Bahari
Online petition for the release of Maziar Bahari
Newsweek: Bahari's detention
Index on Censorship
Reporters without Borders

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