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Iranian-American Group Accuses Tehran of Widespread Rights Abuse - 2003-12-18


An Iranian-American human rights group says the arrest and torture of pro-democracy dissidents in Iran is on the rise. The National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates called upon Western governments and the United Nations to condemn the Islamic fundamentalist regime at a news conference in New York City on Wednesday.

The non-profit group accuses the Iranian government of widespread abuse of students, women and ethnic minorities. The group cites the recent death of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in Tehran as an example of abuses in Iran.

Haydar Akbari, the president of the National Coalition, says the group's aim is to expose the Iranian government's actions in the wake of a steady loss of national support.

"The human rights situation is getting worse and worse because the regime is losing its support by the people day by day," he said. "That's the reason we're seeing more uprisings from the students and all categories of the society."

Remy Alappo is a peace activist and friend of the late Zahra Kazemi. On June 23, 2003 the Canadian photojournalist was arrested while taking photographs of student-led protests outside of the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. She died in custody under circumstances that international journalism and human rights groups questioned. Ms. Alappo says Ms. Kazemi's tragic death should be a symbol of the Iranian government's efforts to suppress free speech.

"She was taken into custody and interrogated by police for 77 hours," she said. On July, she died in a Teheran hospital while under guard. Although the international community, particularly the Canadian government, pressed Iran for a thorough investigation, the Iranian government refused to cooperate. From July 11 to July 16, the world community witnessed a series of lies and deceptions by the highest-ranking members of the Iranian government."

In November, a key United Nations committee approved a Canadian-drafted resolution rebuking Iran for human rights abuses, including torture, suppression of free speech and discrimination against women and minorities.

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