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Iran Sentences Two Journalists To Death

The Iranian judiciary confirmed that two journalist from the country's Kurdish minority have been sentenced to death, a rare verdict against media people here, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Tuesday.

"Adnan Hassanpour and Hiva Boutimar have been sentenced to execution on the charge of Moharebeh," the agency quoted Ali Reza Jamshidi, spokesman of judiciary, as saying. Moharebeh, which literally means "fighting" in classical Arabic, is used in Iran's Sharia law to describe a major crime against the religion and the Islamic state.

The official news agency did not specify what crime the two Kurdish journalists were precisely accused of. There was no immediate comment on when or how the sentence could be executed.

The journalists were deemed activists in Sanandaj, the capital of the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, bordering Iraq. They were detained after Kurds protested in Sanandaj in 2005.

At the time, police arrested dozens of people who attended a pro-Kurdish rally after rioters burned cars and smashed shop windows during a protest over the killing of a Kurdish activist by Iranian police.

Clashes with security forces and arrests led to more demonstrations, with shopkeepers partly shuttering their businesses and the government closing down two newspapers and detaining journalists and activists. The unrest also rocked several Kurdish towns in northwestern Iran.

The Kurdish opposition group PEJAK, which stands in Kurdish for the "Party of Free Life of Kurdistan," called on Kurds in western Iran to begin a campaign of civil disobedience. The group has clashed with Iranian security forces.

Tehran accuses the United States of stoking ethnic minority tensions in northwestern Iran's Kurdish regions.

Reporters Without Borders denounced the sentences.

"These death sentences are outrageous and shameful," the press freedom organization said. "They show how little Iran is bothered by international humanitarian law. They also show how determined it is to use every possible means to silence the most outspoken journalists and human rights activists."

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