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Six-month prison sentences handed down to four cyber-feminists

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is outraged over the six-month prison sentences which a Tehran court has handed down to four cyber-feminists, Parvin Ardalan, Jelveh Javaheri, Maryam Hosseinkhah and Nahid Keshavarz, on charges of "publishing information against the government" under Article 500 of the Islamic Criminal Code.

The four, who are still free pending the outcome of their appeals, were prosecuted for writing articles for two online newspapers, "Zanestan" ("Women's City", http://herlandmag.net ) and "Tagir Bary Barbary" ("Change for Equality", http://we-change.org ), which defend women's rights in Iran.

"These four journalists post their articles online because their magazines have been censored," RSF said. "They are the victims of persecution by the authorities, who repeatedly summon them to court to interrogate them about their activities. They are the victims of discriminatory measures. We call on the government to drop these proceedings against them."

Under Article 500 of the Islamic Republic's Criminal Code, "anyone who undertakes any form of propaganda against the state will be sentenced to between three months and one year in prison." Nobel peace prize winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who is acting for the cyber-feminists, says they plan to appeal.

She told RSF, "These four journalists have been convicted just for writing articles and criticising laws that are unfair to Iranian women ( . . . ) I am worried because I see the situation getting worse. If parliament ratifies the new law increasing sentences for crimes against society's moral security, bloggers could get prison sentences."

Ardalan, who edits the "Tagir Bary Barbary" website, has already been convicted three times on similar charges and has a one-year prison sentence and suspended sentences of five and a half years in prison hanging over her.

Javaheri, 30, writes for "Tagir Bary Barbary". She was already arrested with Keshavarz on 14 February 2008 for "attacking state security". She was previously held from 1 December 2007 to 3 January 2008 in the Evin prison, in northern Tehran, with Hosseinkhah on charges of disturbing public opinion, publishing false information and publicity against the Islamic Republic, for writing articles demanding recognition of women's constitutional rights.

Keshavarz, who writes for both "Tagir Bary Barbary" and "Zanestan", has already been arrested twice and interrogated by intelligence officers for participating in two street demonstrations in defense of women's rights. She spent 12 days in prison in April 2007. She currently has three complaints pending against her.

Hosseinkhah, 32, also writes for both websites. She was held in Evin prison from 18 November 2007 to 3 January 2008 with Javaheri. She currently has two cases pending against her.

Meanwhile, Jila Bani Yaghoub, a journalist who writes for the "Sarmayeh" daily newspaper and the Canon Zeman Irani website ( http://www.irwomen.com ), was summoned by a Tehran revolutionary court on 2 September without any charges being specified. She was arrested with eight other journalists on 12 June while covering the third anniversary of the largest-ever feminist protest in the capital, held on 12 June 2005. They were released the next morning.

Iran was ranked 166th out of 169 countries in the latest RSF world press freedom index.

For further information on the previous detention of Javaheri and Hosseinkhah over online articles, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/88202

For further information on the Keshavarz case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/82569

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