Iranian Journalist Sentenced to Three Years in Jail
By WILLIAM YONG
TEHRAN — Judicial authorities have sentenced a prominent reformist journalist to three years in prison, his family members confirmed Tuesday, while an Iranian-Canadian blogger was sentenced to a 19-year incarceration after having already spent more than two years in detention.
The punishments reinforced the repression on freedom of expression in Iran, where a crackdown under way since the disputed presidential election of June 2009 has intimidated and silenced many voices of dissent. Amnesty International has said 70 Iranian journalists are in prison, while many more, arrested then released, are at risk of arbitrary re-arrest.
The latest journalist to receive punishment, Isa Saharkhiz, 56, an advocate of an independent press, was sentenced on Monday, receiving the maximum two years for insulting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and an extra year for issuing propaganda against the regime. During the election he had campaigned for the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi.
Mr. Saharkhiz, thought to be suffering health problems because of harsh physical treatment, has been in continuous detention for more than a year since his arrest in July 2009, just days after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which Karroubi and other opposition figures said was rigged.
Mr. Saharkhiz’s court case was not heard until more than one year later. Lawyers complained that the defendant had been forced to appear in court wearing handcuffs and leg irons. Mr. Saharkhiz also angered conservatives during the trial by calling for Ayatollah Khamenei’s prosecution for violating the constitution and keeping silent over the torture of political prisoners.
News of his sentencing coincided with reports of the 19-year prison sentence for the Iranian-Canadian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who has been incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin Prison .
Mr. Derakhshan, who lived in Canada and Britain for eight years, has Canadian citizenship, although Iran refuses to recognize dual citizenship. A report on the pro-government Mashregh News Web site said Mr. Derakhshan, 35, had been convicted of crimes including “cooperating with hostile governments,” setting up Web sites considered “vulgar and obscene,” and “insulting sanctities.” Family memberspreviously reported that prosecutors had demanded that Mr. Derakhshan be sentenced to death.
In another development, the Jaras opposition Web site said Tuesday that the killing of an Iranian doctor here this month may have been linked to a politically motivated cover-up of prisoner abuses in the post-election crackdown.
The doctor, Abdolreza Sudbakhsh, was killed by gunmen on motorcycles, and no suspects have been apprehended.
But Jaras reported that Dr. Sudbakhsh had been one of the physicians responsible for inmate health at the Kahrizak detention center, where at least three post-election protesters died from torture and harsh treatment. The Jaras report also asserted that Dr. Sudbakhsh had been killed the day before he was to leave Iran for an unidentified destination.
According to the report, which could not be independently confirmed, Dr. Sudbakhsh had been ordered by Iranian security officials to give false diagnoses regarding Kahrizak detainees, including Mohsen Ruholamini, the 25-year-old son of a top aide to the presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai. Officials initially had claimed that Mr. Ruholamini had died after contracting meningitis. A parliamentary report last January said Mr. Ruholamini and two other detainees had died from beatings and harsh physical treatment at the prison.
Another physician connected with the Kahrizak case, Ramin Pourandarjani, also died under mysterious circumstances last November. Iranian officials ruled his death to be suicide, but there has been speculation that he died from poisoning. Dr. Pourandarjani was thought to have given evidence about abuses at the Kahrizak center to a parliamentary committee after having served at the prison as part of his compulsory military service.
Shamsul Islam Naz
PAKISTAN FEDERAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS
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