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Iranian Reformist Leaders Sentenced To Prison, Political Ban

Mohammad Reza Khatami and six others were found guilty of “anti-regime propaganda” activity.
Mohammad Reza Khatami and six others were found guilty of “anti-regime propaganda” activity.

A court in Iran has sentenced seven reformist politicians, including a brother of former pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami, to one-year prison terms and barred them from political and media activity for two years, a lawyer says.

The seven were leaders of the major reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, that was banned in 2010 in a state crackdown that followed mass street protests against the disputed election that handed hard-line incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad a second term.

Hojat Kermani, a lawyer who represents five of the reformists including Khatami’s brother Mohammad Reza Khatami, told the semiofficial ILNA news agency on October 2 that they have been found guilty of “anti-regime propaganda” activity.

“Six out of these seven reformists have been sentenced to one year imprisonment,” ILNA cited Kermani as saying.

Iran often sentences political activists, journalists, and critics to vague charges, including spreading anti-regime propaganda and acting against national security.

“Based on the court’s ruling, my clients have also been banned from membership in political parties and press and social media activity for two years,” Kermani added.

He said that the sentences, which were issued in September following a trial held behind closed doors last year, are not final and can be appealed.

"I can confirm this report, but we will have to appeal," one of the seven, university professor Mohammad Reza Jalaipour, told the news agency AFP in a text message.

ILNA reported that one of the reformists, Mohammad Naimipour, has been sentenced to two years in prison.

On November 5, 2016, two days before their originally scheduled trial date, the defendants sent a letter to Parliament criticizing the Judiciary for targeting the opposition by using vaguely defined laws, including “anti- regime propaganda” and “actions against national security”.

“The lack of a definition for security related crimes has given the Judiciary a free hand to prosecute nearly every form of legal political activity,” the letter said, adding “As you can see, no one has been [officially] prosecuted for political crimes, rather all the charges are security related.”

“Many detained political activists are denied the right to a lawyer until the start of their trials,” the letter maintained.

In apparent reference to the seven, Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last week that they had been sentenced to prison "and other terms" without providing details.

Lawmaker Bahram Parsayi, who is also the spokesman of the reformist faction in parliament, criticized the sentences against the reformist leaders and called on the judiciary to review them.

He suggested that the sentences are politically motivated.

“In our view, these sentences are political rather than having a judicial aspect,” Parsayi said on October 3.

“It’s wrong that the reformists...always have to face threats. This policy has to change," he said.

With reporting by ILNA, ISNA and AFP