Iran court sentences blogger to 19.5 years

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[JURIST] An Iranian blogger known for popularizing blogs in Iran has been sentenced to 19.5 years imprisonment for cooperating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promoting counterrevolutionary groups and maintaining obscene websites. In addition to serving his prison sentence, Hossein Derakhshan [Ottawa Citizen profile] faces a five-year ban [Mashreghnews report, in Persian] from membership in political parties and fines totaling nearly USD $45,000. Derakhshan, who has been in prison since 2008, has dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship and is widely known in Iran as the country’s “Blogfather” [RFE/RL report]. It was previously reported that Derakhshan was facing the death penalty [Global Voices report]. “Such a long jail term has never before been imposed on a blogger in Iran and is indicative of a desire to make an example out of Derakhshan,” media freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] said [press release]. “He is the victim of political rivalry within the government and the case against him was fabricated. We urge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to intercede personally in order to obtain his release without delay.”

Iran has faced criticism for its efforts to curtail the activities of bloggers and journalists. Earlier this month, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] sentenced [JURIST report] Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], to six years in prison. During the Tehran trial, conducted by head judge Pyrabasy, Ahari faced charges of warring against God [CHRR report], known in Islamic law as Moharebeh, conspiring to commit a crime, propaganda against the revolution and disturbing the public order, violating several articles of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran [Mehr backgrounder]. In May, RSF included Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profiles] of Iran in a report listing 40 “Predators of Press Freedom” [JURIST report] throughout the world. Pyrabasy previously presided over the trial of Mohammad Nourizad, a prominent Iranian journalist and filmmaker, who was sentenced in April to three-and-a-half years [JURIST report] in prison and 50 lashes for his activities after the 2009 elections. Nourizad was sentenced for “distributing propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and desecrating the image of thirty years of the Islamic establishment,” and insulting the supreme leader, the president, the head of the judiciary and Ayatollah Elmolhoda of the Assembly of Experts. In December, Iranian economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz was sentenced to a nine-year jail term [JURIST report] for possessing classified information and participating in protests following the 2009 elections. Thousands were arrested during the protests following the contested election.

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