Prison Sentence for Young Facebook User Increased from 15 to 20 Years
A Tehran Revolutionary Court has increased the sentence of a 21-year-old Facebook user from 15 to 20 years in prison for his postings on Facebook. The case was originally appealed in the hope that the severe 15-year sentence would be reduced. However, the appeals court remanded the case to the lower court because one of the charges, “insulting the sacred,” was not addressed in the original ruling.
As a result, the judge in the lower court, Judge Moghisseh, added the charge of “insulting the sacred” to the ruling in the case of Masoud Seyed Talebi, which added five more years to his sentence, according to a source close to Talebi’s case.
The ensuing 20-year sentence is indicative of the intensifying crackdown on social media networks in Iran, as hardline authorities attempt to reign in exponential growth in the use of such networks.
“Judge Moghisseh has issued this young man’s ruling in clear violation of the law. At the December 20 court session that was convened to address the shortcomings in the case, the charge of ‘insulting the sacred’ that was not included in the [original] ruling was added to the list of charges, and thus added five more years to this young man’s sentence,” said the source.
IRGC agents arrested Masoud Seyed Talebi, an engineering student at Tehran Azad University, on October 13, 2013. He is one of eight suspects who were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 8 to 21 years in July 2014 on charges related to their activities on Facebook. Talebi was indicted for “propaganda against the state,” “insulting the Supreme Leader,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” “insulting government officials,” “insulting the sacred,” and “publishing inappropriate images.” The lower court originally sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court remanded the case and sent it to the lower court to rule on the charge of “insulting the sacred” as well, resulting in the increased sentence.
“Masoud was arrested at his home on October 13, 2013, as he was preparing to go to university. Agents told a crowd of neighbors who had gathered during their search of the premises and Masoud’s arrest that he had committed fraud,” said the source. Talebi was kept inside IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison for interrogations for a month and was later transferred to Evin’s Ward 350.
IRNA first reported of the trial of eight Iranian citizens for their Facebook activities on July 13, 2014. IRGC’s Sarallah Base had pursued and identified the eight individuals, leading to the July 2013 arrests, according to IRNA.
The Campaign reported in July that all six male convicts in the case are currently inside Ward 350 of Evin Prison. One female convict is held under deplorable conditions at the Gharchak Prison outside Tehran, and one of the female convicts with two young children was released on bail.