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Iran's Political Prisoners

In a written statement, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the U.S. is “concerned about the welfare of several prisoners of conscience in Iran, including prisoners’ rights advocate Emaddedin Baghi and union leader Mahmoud Salehi.” Mr. Casey said that the health of both men has gotten significantly worse during their imprisonment.

Emaddedin Baghi is a former journalist who became an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and advocate for prisoners’ rights. He was sentenced to a three year-prison term in 2000. Released on bail in 2003, he was imprisoned again in October 2007. Since then, according to the Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, Mr. Baghi has spent more than seventy days in solitary confinement in Evin prison. On December 26th, he suffered a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. He was then taken back to prison.

Mahmoud Salehi is a founding member of the Saqez Bakery Workers’ Association. He was arrested in April 2007 for organizing a peaceful demonstration on May Day 2004 and for his trade union activities. Mr. Salehi was sentenced to one year in prison. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Casey says Mr. Salehi was hospitalized in December “after experiencing complications from the lack of proper treatment for his chronic kidney disease.”

President George W. Bush has spoken of the efforts of people like Emaddedin Baghi and Mahmoud Salehi who work to change the ways of despotic regimes. He said it is important for free nations to shine a spotlight on them and their struggles:

“It’s in our interest to rally the world and to pressure, and to keep the focus and use our respective bully pulpits – those of us in free societies – use our respective bully pulpits to remind people of the condition, the human condition, in these societies that are being deeply affected by tyrannical regimes.”

“People want liberty,” said Mr. Bush. He said the U.S. will continue to rally international support for those who struggle for freedom.