Journalists in Iran Slapped with Long Prison Sentences

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Three journalists and the brother of a journalist have been given prison sentences ranging from five to ten years after spending months in detention, the lawyer representing two of the individuals told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

The newspaper columnist Afarin Chitsaz, who wrote for Iran, the official daily newspaper of the Rouhani administration, was sentenced to 10 years in prison while the reformist journalist Ehsan Mazandarani, who is editor-in-chief of Farhikhtegan newspaper, was sentenced to seven years in prison. The reformist journalist Ehsan (Saman) Safarzaei, who is the international desk editor of Andisheh Pooya magazine, and Davoud Assadi, whose brother is the editor of a Paris-based dissident news website, were each sentenced to five years in prison.

Mazandarani was found guilty of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state,” said his lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee, who is also representing Assadi. The charges were connected to Mazandarani’s alleged collaboration with Iranian media outlets based abroad.

“We rejected this charge but the court made a ruling based on presented evidence that we believed to be unacceptable,” said Tabatabaee.

“[Assadi’s] five-year prison sentence was also for ‘assembly and collusion against national security.’ He was found guilty because his brother, Houshang Assadi, an editor of RoozOnline, sent him money [from Paris], but Davoud insisted that he was unaware of the reason why his brother did so,” added Tabatabaee. “Unfortunately, the court did not accept this explanation.”

The sentences against Mazandarani and Assadi will be appealed, Tabatabaee told the Campaign.

Tabatabaee added that even though he does not represent Afarin Chitsaz, he has learned that she received her 10-year prison sentence for alleged “collaboration with foreign governments” in addition to “assembly and collusion against national security.”

An informed source also told the Campaign that the court found Ehsan (Saman) Safarzaei’s articles to be “against national security.” Since they were written for media outlets abroad, the judge decided that Safarzaei was guilty of “assembly and collusion against national security” even though his lawyer argued otherwise.

Mazandarani and Chitsaz, and prominent journalist Issa Saharkhiz, who is still awaiting sentencing, were arrested by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization during a wave of arrests on November 2, 2015.

A month after their arrest, Ahmad Khatami, a hardline member of the Assembly of Experts, accused the journalists of “cooperation with America” and claimed they had all confessed to writing for U.S. publications for money. News organizations affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards and Iran’s security establishment have made similar allegations.

“The confessions of those recently arrested in connection with an infiltration plot will be broadcast in the near future and the Iranian people will see how they operated behind the scenes,” said Ali Shirazi, the supreme leader’s representative to the Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force, on February 1, 2016.

Political prisoners in Iran are subjected to harsh conditions and various forms of torture to extract false confessions, which are then used as evidence to convict.

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