Thursday 19 November 2015

Journalist’s 1 Year Prison Sentence and 2 Year Ban Upheld

The journalist Rayhaneh Tabatabaie, 35, has been informed that the Appeals Court has approved her one-year prison sentence and two-year ban on political and media activities issued in November 2014 by Judge Salavati.

A source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the charge of “propaganda against the state” against Tabatabaie was based on her Facebook posts that were critical of the government, as well as her activities in the Young Reformists Election Headquarters, a group formed in 2013 to promote the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency. She was also accused of causing religious tensions by interviewing prominent Sunni figures such as Mowlavi Abdolhamid, the Friday Prayer Leader of the city of Zahedan.

The decision takes place within a context of an intensifying crackdown on journalists and reformists in Iran, and a particular targeting of any dissent expressed on social media platforms. Hardliners are seeking to maintain their domestic dominance in the wake of the nuclear deal reached by the more moderate Rouhani administration. They are concerned reformist forces will gain electoral strength in the Parliamentary elections coming in February 2016.

Tabatabaie has worked for several reformist newspapers such as Bahar, Kalameh Sabz, and Shargh. She was first arrested in November 2010 by the Revolutionary Guards and sentenced to a year in prison, which was later reduced to six months by the Appeals Court, on charges related to publishing news about the opposition Green Movement.

The Green Movement arose out of the 2009 presidential election in Iran. Widespread protests over the disputed results of those elections were followed by a violent state crackdown and the arrest of hundreds, dozens of which remain in prison. Those events are still a sensitive topic in Iran, with hardliners referring to all those connected to the Green Movement as “seditionists.”

Tabatabaie was summoned to Evin Prison on June 21, 2014, to begin serving her six-month sentence at the facility’s Women’s Ward.

While she was serving her sentence in 2014, the new case was opened against the journalist and she was put on trial again a month after her release in November 2014. The one-year prison sentence and two-year ban on political and media activities, which has now been upheld by the Appeals Court, stems from this case.

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