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Former Khamenei Supporter Sentenced To 13 Years For Speaking Out

Kamal Jafari Yazdi, an Iranian politcal activist and former supporter of ayatollah Khamenei. File photo

The Appeals Court has upheld a preliminary court verdict against a former supporter of the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for disseminating dissident information.

Based on the new ruling, the civil activist and retired university lecturer in the city of Mashhad, Kamal Jafari Yazdi, should serve a minimum of ten years of his thirteen-year sentence.

A judge in the northeastern city of Mashhad had initially sentenced Jafari Yazdi in April to ten years in prison for "forming an illegal group against national security," two years for "insulting the Supreme Leader," and one year for "propaganda against the regime."

In an interview with radio Farda August 20, Mr. Yazdi confirmed the Appeals Court decision about his sentence. He read out the charges that include interviews with foreign based “hostile media”. This term applies to Persian-language broadcasters such as Radio Farda and the BBC.

In July, Jafari Yazdi joined thirteen other Iranian activists who signed a letter calling on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and pave the way for a new political order to replace the Islamic Republic.

On August 10 the co-signatories of the letter showed up at the court in Mashhad to express solidarity with Yazdi and they were arrested. There are now on hunger strike.

Iranian law allows courts to sentence citizens to prison for the simple act of creating online groups, pages or channels, as well as for their personal online posts.

Article 498 of the Islamic Penal Code states, "Anyone, with any ideology, who establishes or directs a group, society, or branch inside or outside the country, with any name or title, that constitutes more than two individuals and aims to perturb the security of the country, if not considered as 'mohareb', shall be sentenced to two to ten years imprisonment."

'Mohareb' means 'waging war against God.'

A retired university professor who taught strategic management, Jafari Yazdi was working as an adviser to commercial and industrial companies in Iran when agents of the Intelligence Ministry in Mashhad arrested him on July 24, 2018. He was released on bail three months later.

Jafari Yazdi insists that he used to be a loyal supporter of the Islamic Republic as a member of the Basij paramilitary volunteer force, under the command of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC). But the state's violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations after the controversial 2009 presidential election had a profound impact on him.

"I was a supporter of the Islamic Republic, and for years I fought in the (Iran-Iraq) War," he told Center for Human Rights in Iran. "I was injured, and my brother was martyred in the war… But I became a critic of the regime after 2009 because of the suppression of the people and the killing of young protesters in [the notorious detention center] Kahrizak."