A 30-year-OLD Greek journalist who has been covering Iran’s disputed presidential election for US newspaper The Washington Times has been arrested.
Jason Athanasiadis, who has contributed to the Greek newspapers Kathimerini and Athens News in the past, was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Iranian authorities claimed Athanasiadis was arrested because he exceeded the duration of his visa.
[Update 4 August 2009: Athanasiadis has told neoskosmos.com that he had not overstayed his visa and that the Iranian authorities fabricated the charge for unknown reasons other than “a half-baked idea that I might be a spy”.]
His parents Georgios Fowden and Polymnia Athanadiadi, appealed for his release.
“Jason is a dedicated reporter, photographer and filmmaker who grew up in Greece and regards himself as Greek,” they said, adding that they were “deeply grateful” for the Greek Foreign Ministry’s efforts to secure his release.
“Jason has always maintained his integrity as an independent journalist who sells articles, photographs and film to outlets in many parts of the world,” they said in their statement.
“His work serves no purpose other than the fair and humane coverage of life in the many countries where he has worked. He has a particular love of Iran, and a deep respect for its cultural and religious traditions.”
Iason Athanasiadis was born in Greece and he considers himself to be Greek.
His parents have dual citizenship – British and Greek but he has only a Greek passport.
The Greek and British Foreign Ministries are actively taking steps to work towards his release.
Greek Foreign ministry spokeman Grigoris Delavekouras said that Athens had complained to Iranian authorities over the arrest of a Greek journalist:
“The Foreign Ministry, from the very beginning, has been in contact with his family. We have made all the suitable diplomatic representations at all levels, and we are in constant contact with the Iranian authorities to ensure a favourable end to be given to this issue soon.”
The British Foreign Ministry has also joined the efforts for his release.
“Great Britain will give a note of protest to Iran for the release of Athanasiadis and the other journalists. We are ready to provide all needed help, in order for him to return to his country,” said the British Foreign Minister, David Miliband.
Athanasiadis had been filing regular features for The Washington Times about the fallout of the Iranian elections.
An editor at the Washington paper confirmed that Athanasiadis worked as a freelancer for the paper.
His most recent piece, published on June 16, was an analysis of Iranian reformist politician and artist Hossein Mousavi, described as “a lightning rod for change.”