Journalist Sentenced to 10.5 Years Imprisonment for Covering Labor Day Rally
Four months after being arrested while covering a Labor Day protest, Journalist Marzieh Amiri has been sentenced to 10.5 years in prison and 148 lashes by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh.
If upheld upon appeal, Amiri, a reporter for the reformist Shargh newspaper in Tehran, would have to serve at least six years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
Amiri, who is also a sociology student at the University of Tehran, was facing several charges for peacefully engaging in her profession including “assembly and collusion against national security,” “disturbing public order” and “propaganda against the state,” her lawyer, Arash Dowlatshahi, told the state-funded Borna news agency on August 25, 2019.
“These verdicts against students, critics and journalists are not becoming of the judicial system, nor in the interest of our state,” Dowlatshahi said. “In fact, during interrogation, Ms. Amiri declared her belief in the state’s foundation and that her criticisms and objections were within its framework.”
Freedom of speech and the press is severely restricted in Iran, with journalists arrested and prosecuted each year for doing their jobs. At least seven members of the press including Amiri were prosecuted in 2019, according to investigations by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
On May 1, 2019, Amiri was covering a peaceful Labor Day rally in Baharestan Sq. near Iran’s Parliament building when she was arrested along with several others.
Amiri and activists Neda Naji, Atefeh Rangriz, Anisha Asadollahi were all charged with national security crimes.
“She was charged with ‘disturbing public order’ and then, because she had another open case, she was kept in detention and other charges were added on,” Dowlatshahi said.
After her trial on August 13, 2019, Dowlatshahi said his client was being prosecuted based on confessions she made under a “particular circumstance” during interrogation, implying she was forced to “confess” under the threat of torture.
Defense attorneys in Iran who choose to take on civil and human rights cases are also imprisoned for engaging in their profession, which is why many restrict what they say to press outlets.
“It appears that the issues raised against Ms. Amiri came from particular circumstances in the preliminary investigations when, unfortunately, she was denied legal counsel and therefore we asked the court to pay more attention to our defense,” Dowlatshahi told Ensaf news.
“The law says that statements from suspects are admissible only if they are taken under natural circumstances,” he added.
Despite suffering from epilepsy, Amiri was denied temporary release to receive medical treatment, according to Dowlatshahi.
Civil rights activists and critics of state policies have also been slapped with lengthy prison sentences in the past few months including Saba Kord-Afshari, who was sentenced to 24 years in prison for peacefully campaigning against the Islamic Republic’s forced hijab law, and satirist Keyomars Marzban, who was sentenced to 23.3 years for working for foreign media outlets.
Sentence Condemned on Social Media
Various social media users from Iran condemned the judiciary and intelligence establishment’s renewed crackdown on freedom of speech and expression.
“Mr. [Ebrahim] Raisi, I hope you will not make the same mistake as [former Judiciary Chief] Sadegh Larijani by ignoring public opinion,” tweeted Saba Azarpeik, a political sociology Ph.D. student based in Iran.
“Marzieh Amiri is an economic affairs reporter who had gone to cover the Labor Day event when she was arrested,” she added. “Now she has to serve six years behind bars! That is the definition of injustice. Do you have an explanation or is this how the story goes?”
Anonymous Persian-language user “Golden Bird” tweeted: “Thank God the news mentioned that Keyomars Marzban was a satirist and Marzieh Amiri was a reporter or else I would have thought the heavy sentences were because they were embezzlers, economic crooks or rapists.”
Another Persian-language user, Atieh Amiri, wrote: “Yesterday I was thinking about [imprisoned councilman] Mehdi Hajati, [civil rights activist] Farhad Meysami, [human rights lawyer] Nasrin Sotoudeh and Marzieh Amiri and asking myself, Does the young generation know why these people are in prison? Have they ever heard their names?”
Political science student Zahra Tohidi commented: “The 10-year prison sentence against Marzieh Amiri, [detained photographer] Nooshin Jafari’s tearful voice under pressure… are aimed at intimidating us. Yes, you’re really scary. Those who have no principles in gaining, protecting and displaying power are scary… But those at the center of power should be afraid of each other.”
Read this article in Persian.