Vigils Held Worldwide To Protest Jailing of Iranian Physicians Who Addressed HIV/AIDS
Health professionals on Tuesday held vigils in several cities worldwide to protest the imprisonment of Iranian brothers Kamiar and Arash Alaei -- physicians and leading HIV/AIDS advocates in the country -- following the release of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, the Albany Times Union reports. Vigils were held in cities such as New York City and Washington, D.C., as a day of global protest against the brothers' imprisonment. Vigils also were held in cities across Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, according to the Times Union.
Jonathan Hutson -- a spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights, which is leading a campaign for the brothers' release -- said, "The release of Ms. Saberi has shifted the world's attention to the plight of others who are likewise jailed in Iran on trumped-up charges." He added, "This is not an issue of politics, but of global health. The only battle they were engaged in is the public health battle to prevent and treat the deadly epidemic of AIDS. They need to be allowed to return to their lifesaving work" (Grondahl, Albany Times Union, 5/13).
Three newspapers recently published editorials related to the Alaei brothers. Summaries appear below.
Boston Globe: "[I]f Iran's leaders want to convey a message of conciliation and justice, they should have" the Alaei brothers "exonerated on their appeal of convictions for working with an 'enemy government' and 'seeking to overthrow the Iranian government,'" a Globe editorial says. The Globe adds the PHR and "several other public health and human rights groups are sponsoring rallies in New York; Washington, D.C.; and other cities around the world to call for the doctors' release," concluding, "We hope Iran's leaders get this message as well" (Boston Globe, 5/12).
Los Angeles Times: "Human rights activists say there are several hundred political prisoners jailed in Iran solely for exercising rights that in the West are often taken for granted," a Times editorial says. The editorial continues that Iran "should allow international human rights organizations or independent jurists access to" the Alaeis' case records and "provide fair and open trials to all prisoners," concluding that "[d]efendants should be innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof must be on the prosecution" (Los Angeles Times, 5/12).
New York Times: The recent release of Saberi, who "had been sentenced to eight years in a notorious Iranian prison on espionage charges, is welcome news and a humanitarian gesture by Iranian leaders" but "should not be overstated," a Times editorial says. "Working conditions are still treacherous for journalists and other professionals in Iran," the editorial says, adding that PHR is "campaigning" for the release of the Alaei brothers, "whose unfair trials and horrifying sentences are still intact" (New York Times, 5/12).