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Blogger sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment, newspaper suspended

(RSF/IFEX) - 7 February 2012 - The Tehran revolutionary court yesterday sentenced Mehdi Khazali, editor of the Baran blog, to 14 years' imprisonment, 10 years' internal exile in the south-western city of Borazjan and 70 lashes. He was arrested on 9 January for the third time in less than two years.

Khazali is the son of Ayatollah Abolghasem Khazali, an influential member of the Council of Guardians of the Iranian Constitution for the past three decades. Despite his frequent run-ins with the authorities, Khazali is very scathing about the government's policies and human rights violations in his blog, which has been hacked and is no longer accessible.

According the Mashregh website, which is close to the intelligence services, Sharam Golshani, head of the currency conversion site Mesghal is reported to have been arrested two days ago, at the height of a currency crisis in Iran. The site, which gives exchange rates for the Iranian rial and foreign currencies, was accused of contributing to the fall of the rial against the U.S. dollar.

On 1 January, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law Washington's toughest sanctions yet against Tehran. Subsequently the value of the rial fell by more than 20 percent, despite the intervention of the Iranian central bank.

The website was unavailable for several days in early January. Golshani was accused of being a member of the Baha'i faith, which is not recognized as a religion by Iran, and of being and of working on behalf of Iran's enemies.

Reporters Without Borders has learned of the release on bail two days ago of Simien Nematollahi, a contributor to the website Majzooban, after the payment of a surety of 100 million tomans (about 90,000 euros). She was arrested on 7 January at her Tehran home by officials of the intelligence ministry on a charge of anti-government propaganda.

The newspaper Roozegar was closed down two days ago on the orders of the Tehran prosecutor responsible for the print media after it published a front-page interview and photo of the reformist leader, Mohammad Reza Khatami. It was the third time the daily had been banned. It was suspended for two months on 4 September 2011 and had earlier been closed down between 2007 and February 2010.

Reporters Without Borders is seeking the release of Said Razavi Faghih, a journalist and former student leader who has worked for several reformist newspapers. He was detained at Tehran airport on 22 January after arriving in the country from France where he had lived since 2004. He was studying philosophy in Paris.

The publications for which he has worked include the reformist newspaper Yase No, which was closed down in 2009.

On 30 January 2009, officials of the intelligence ministry confiscated his passport and banned him from leaving the country. He was ordered to attend the revolutionary court the next day. He was released a month later, but he ban on leaving Iran remained in force.

Faghih was detained for several months in 2003 with three other journalists from Yase No and spent more than 78 days in solitary confinement.
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    Simien Nematollahi, a contributer to the pro-Sufi website Majzooban, was arrested at her Tehran home by intelligence ministry officials on 11 January on a charge of anti-government propaganda.

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