The New York Times writes a spot-on editorial:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is preparing to come to the United Nations this month where he will enjoy the freedom to speak his mind. Back home, far too many people are denied their basic rights and are deprived of their freedom. Since fraudulent presidential elections in June, and a harsh government crackdown that followed, at least 100 people, including politicians, lawyers and journalists have been jailed.
There are horrifying reports of prisoners being raped and tortured. Show trials, complete with obviously coerced confessions, have only reminded the Iranian people, and the world, of the government’s illegitimacy.
Among those unjustly detained is Maziar Bahari, a respected documentary filmmaker and correspondent for Newsweek who has been in prison since June 21. A native Iranian who is now a Canadian citizen, Mr. Bahari has not been officially charged and has not been allowed to see a lawyer. Yet he was forced to confess that he and others took part in a “velvet coup” engineered by the West to oust Mr. Ahmadinejad. Such charges are blatantly false.
Mr. Bahari’s work as a journalist and a filmmaker is internationally recognized. As he endures Tehran’s grim Evin prison, he is a finalist this week for Spain’s coveted Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, given to groups or individuals for encouraging and promoting the “scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of mankind’s universal heritage.” He was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
The Harvard Film Archives says Mr. Bahari’s depiction of contemporary Iranian culture reveals “the human element behind the headlines.” His documentary “Muhammad and the Matchmaker” tells the story of a former heroin addict in Iran trying to rebuild his life. His reporting for Newsweek and Britain’s Channel 4 has also offered important insights into the way ordinary people struggle to survive.
Mr. Bahari and the rest of the detainees must be released immediately and allowed to do their work and freely speak their minds.