x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Newsweek reporter in Iran sentenced to lashes and jail

The Canadian-Iranian Maziar Bahari says a revolutionary court sentenced him this week to 13 years and six months behind bars plus 74 lashes.

Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who was detained in Iran from June to October, says a revolutionary court sentenced him this week to 13 years and six months behind bars plus 74 lashes. Canadian-Iranian Mr Bahari was among the scores of journalists and reformist politicians arrested following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June last year, which triggered mass protests in Iran and charges of voter fraud.

"A member of my family went to the court just this morning and was told of the judgment, such as it was: a reminder that this is a regime that deals in brutal symbols that make sense only to its own," Mr Bahari wrote Monday on Newsweek's website. He noted that Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court handed down the sentence "without bothering to inform me or my lawyers." Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast refused to confirm or deny the reported sentence and judiciary officials could not be reached for comment.

On the day Mr Bahari was released from Tehran's notorious Evin prison last year, the resident judge told him that he faced 11 charges. But the sentencing only contained six charges. "So in a sense, as I was reminded repeatedly during almost four months of interrogation and torture, I was benefiting from 'the Islamic kindness' of the 'holy' government of the Islamic Republic when I got out," Mr Bahari wrote dryly.

The charges include five years imprisonment for "unlawful assembly and conspiring against the security of the state" because of his coverage of the disputed elections and ensuing mass protests, and four years for "collecting and keeping secret and classified documents." Mr Bahari linked that charge to a document an opposition leader gave him in 2002, although he insisted that "there was nothing secret in the document."

The journalist also got a year for "propagandising against the system," two years for insulting supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a year and 74 lashes for "disrupting public order" and six months for insulting Mr Ahmadinejad. He noted that no sentences were handed down for the more severe charges he faced when "interrogated and tortured" during his detention, including spying for the United States, Britain and Israel; paving the way for a "velvet revolution" and being in contact with Jews and Israelis.

"None of those charges made any more or less sense than the ones I was sentenced for, so why leave them out?" Mr Bahari wrote. "Hundreds of other Iranians are in jail for charges that are even more absurd than mine." He noted that over 30 journalists, writers and bloggers still languish in Iranian prisons while dozens more are out on bail or furlough. Five activists were hung over the weekend. Mr Bahari said that 25 others are now on death row.

Iran does not recognise the foreign nationality of Iranians holding dual citizenship. * AFP