Iranian Journalist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison For Criticizing Ultra-Conservative Cleric in a Tweet
Amir Mohammad Hossein Miresmaili, a former journalist and satirist for the Jahan Sana’at (Industry World) newspaper in Iran, has been sentenced to a decade in prison after allegedly disparaging a Shia imam in a tweet aimed at criticizing an ultra-conservative cleric in Iran.
Branch 1060 of the Government Workers Court in Tehran handed down the sentence on August 19, 2018. Miresmaili was also banned from media activities for two years as well as prohibited from traveling abroad for two years.
“There are many objections to the ruling against my client,” his lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz told the state-funded Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).
“He was trying to criticize officials within the framework of satire but unfortunately, his words have been taken as insults,” he added. “I believe the government should show tolerance and understand the nature of satire.”
Miresmaili was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport a day after he tweeted the tongue-in-cheek criticism of Ahmad Alamolhoda, the ultra-conservative Friday prayer leader of Mashhad, for declaring that children shouldn’t be allowed to dance in public.
In a tweet on April 23, 2018, Miresmaili wrote: “There are two stories about how Imam Reza was martyred. One of them says he ate poisoned grapes and according to the other, he drank pomegranate juice. There’s no doubt he loved grape juice, chips and yogurt and then Alamolhoda says dancing and music are an insult to Imam Reza! Stop the nonsense. Imam Reza is one of us.”
Ali Ibn Musa al-Reza is the 8th Shia Imam (765-818 A.D.) and the butt of many Iranian jokes.
Hours later, Miresmaili deleted the tweet and apologized for posting it.
“I reiterate that I had no intention whatsoever to insult Imam Reza,” he tweeted at the time. “I’m a Shia Muslim and I just wanted to criticize Alamolhoda and if anyone got upset, I apologize.”
On the day of his arrest, religious extremists posted videos on social media showing a crowd in front of the judiciary’s headquarters in Tehran demanding stiff punishments against “foul-mouthed journalists.”
Miresmaili’s sentence was based on four charges: “insulting sacred tenants and the imams,” “insulting government and judicial officials,” “spreading falsehoods to disturb public opinion” and “publishing immoral and indecent matters.”
Ahmadiniaz said he would appeal the ruling within the 20-day time limit.