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Sufi website journalists sentenced to long jail terms, flogging in Iran

A woman raises her hands in prayer at a Sufi shrine in Kahsmir, India, 29 August 2017
A woman raises her hands in prayer at a Sufi shrine in Kahsmir, India, 29 August 2017

Saqib Majeed / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

This statement was originally published on on 22 August 2018.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the extremely harsh sentences that a Tehran revolutionary court passed last week on six more people who edited or wrote for Majzooban Noor, a website that is the only independent source of news and information about the Sufi religious community of Gonabadi dervishes in Iran.

Two members of the website's editorial committee, Saleholldin Moradi and Reza Entesari, and the latter's brother, Sina Entesari, a citizen-journalist who wrote for the site, were sentenced to seven years in prison.

Another citizen-journalist who reported for the site, Mohammad Sharifi Moghadam, and another member of its editorial committee, Kasra Nouri, were given 12-year terms. Mostafa Abdi, another member of the editorial staff, received the longest jail sentence - 26 years in prison.

All six were also sentenced to 74 lashes each and, on completing their jail terms, to two years of internal exile and a simultaneous two-year ban on all civil society and journalistic activity. The sentences were passed in absentia because the six refused to attend any of the hearings on the grounds that they had no legal representation and the trial was unfair.

Three of Majzooban Noor's women citizen-journalists – Sepideh Moradi, Avisha Jalaledin and Shima Entesari – were sentenced by a separate Tehran revolutionary court on 10 July to five years in prison on charges of "meeting and plotting against national security."

"Rather than judicial decisions, these sentences are examples of how the Iranian judicial authorities persecute independently reported news and information," said Reza Moini, the head of RSF's Iran/Afghanistan desk.

"The Iranian regime has been cracking down harder on independent news providers ever since a wave of street protests began in January. We call on Javaid Rehman, the UN's new special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, to take action on behalf of journalists who have been arrested arbitrarily and given unfair trials. The regime must adhere to its obligations to respect international standards."

The Majzooban Noor journalists were arrested in the north Tehran district of Pasdaran on the night of 19 February during clashes between police and members of this Sufi community. Most of them sustained injuries to the head and hands when they were badly beaten by police and civilian militiamen.

Iran is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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