Journalist to Serve Five Years in Prison for Uncovering Corruption in Tehran Municipality
Yashar Soltani’s Investigate Expose Implicated City Officials and MPs
Journalist Yashar Soltani has been sentenced to five years in prison for exposing extensive corruption within the Tehran municipality, his lawyer announced January 23, 2019.
“Let’s turn this unjust verdict into an opportunity to fight corruption,” Soltani tweeted the day of the announcement. “We will not hand over Iran to the corrupt.”
Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran also banned Soltani, the editor-in-chief of the independent Memari News, from leaving Iran or participating in political and media activities for two years, said attorney Sadegh Kashani.
In August 2016, Soltani published an unclassified letter from the government’s National Inspection Organization that exposed the appropriation of government funds and properties to an excess of 2.2 trillion tomans (approximately $702 million USD at the time).
The results of Soltani’s investigation, which implicated several senior municipality officials, City Council members, members of Parliament (MPs) and police officers, were eventually confirmed by Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.
He was nevertheless still prosecuted while his website was shut down. Eight other news sites, including Borna and Moj, were also suspended at the time on orders from the Tehran prosecutor because of similar complaints in connection with the National Inspection Organization’s letter.
In an interview broadcast by state-funded TV on October 28, 2016, Montazeri said that the city of Tehran had sold properties “with special discounts above the legal limit” and some were allocated to officials located outside the municipality.
Montazeri added that the judiciary had accordingly invalidated the deeds of 36 of the real estate locations in question and the Tehran Municipality had been ordered to cancel excessive discounts.
Despite the fact that a Tehran city council member confirmed to the authorities that the documents the journalist published were not classified, Soltani was still sentenced to prison for the charges of “publishing falsehoods to disturb public opinion” and “slandering and threatening the Techlar constriction company” regarding its contracts with the city of Tehran.
Soltani is awaiting sentencing for the charge of “gathering and publishing classified government information,” according to his lawyer.
While reporting Soltani’s sentence, the judiciary’s Mizan news agency reprinted Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Safari Dowlatabadi’s 2016 accusations claiming Soltani published the documents to influence the outcome of elections for the head of Tehran City Council.
After they were published, the journalist was sued by then-Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and the head of Tehran City Council at the time, Mehdi Chamran, both conservative politicians.
Soltani’s trial took place in three sessions, two in July 2017 and the last one in August 2018.