Iran sentences Newsweek journalist in absentia

Iran sentences Newsweek journalist in absentia
# 12 May 2010 02:34 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. An Iranian court has sentenced a Newsweek reporter in absentia to more than 13 years in prison and 74 lashes, raising concerns about a new government crackdown ahead of the anniversary of disputed presidential elections, APA reports quoting web-page.

Maziar Bahari, a dual Canadian and Iranian citizen, was among scores of political activists and other figures detained amid a crackdown following disputed presidential elections last year.

Bahari spent nearly four months in jail but was released on bail of 3 billion rials ($300,000) and allowed to leave the country to join his British wife in London in October.

The journalist said in an article published this week in Newsweek that the sentence was handed down Sunday on charges including assembling and conspiring against state security, collecting secret and classified documents, propagandizing against the system and insulting the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He said he also was sentenced to one year and 74 lashes for "disruption of public order."

Bahari, who was arrested on June 21 as part of a clampdown on street protests by hundreds of thousands of Iranians against the June 12 vote, said a family member went to the court and was told of the judgment.

"A wave of judgments like the one against me, coming on the eve of the first anniversary of the election, appears aimed at discouraging people from taking part in new mass demonstrations aimed condemning the re-election of Ahmadinejad and the repression that followed," he wrote.

His lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said Tuesday that the verdict still has not officially been delivered to his office in Tehran.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the sentence.

"The conviction is a reminder to us that the dozens of Iranian journalists who remain in jail are at the mercy of a cruel and vindictive regime," CPJ’s regional coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem said in a statement.

Sunday’s sentencing occurred on the same day that five Kurdish activists were hanged following their conviction of membership of armed opposition groups and involvement in bombings.

The five were sentenced to death in 2008 after they were found guilty of "Moharebeh," a term Iran uses to describe a major crime against Islam and the state.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was quoted as warning the executions were part of an "unfair trend" against activists following the election.