Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jailed Iranian writer barred from seeing lawyer


Tue Jun 13, 2006

5:14 AM EDT

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Canadian-Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, arrested in Tehran last month on spying charges, has been denied access to a lawyer during his interrogations, the judiciary said on Tuesday.

Canada earlier this month asked Iran to either release or charge Jahanbegloo, who has joint nationality, and the case has further strained the icy relations between the two governments. Jahanbegloo has worked and lectured on democracy in Iran and how the Islamic Republic can engage with the West, and has written on the importance of acknowledging the Holocaust. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned whether it happened.

"It is a security case. Based on the law, when it is at this stage of the investigation, he cannot have access to a lawyer," Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad told a news conference at Evin prison in north Tehran.

Karimirad gave no indication of how long the investigation stage might take. Authorities had invited journalists on a very rare visit to the notorious Evin prison, where political prisoners like Jahanbegloo are held.

Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Ottawa have been poor since Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in detention in Iran in 2003 after being arrested for photographing Evin prison.

Iran says conditions are improving in its jails but rights groups describe arbitrary detention and solitary confinement and say detainees should have more access to lawyers and family.