Journalist and blogger Ahmad Reza Shiri will have a permanent threat hanging over him as a result of the suspended sentence of three years in prison handed down by a court in the northern city of Mashad on 8 January, Reporters Without Borders said today. He was reportedly accused of writing articles in his blog calling for a boycott of last February's legislative elections.
"Suspended sentences are often used to silence journalists who bother the authorities," the press freedom organisation said. "The fact that this type of sentence has now been applied to a blogger shows the importance that weblogs have assumed in Iranian society."
Shiri said he was arrested in February 2004 and spent 21 days in detention because of what he had written in his previous blog, Iran Azad (Free Iran). In June 2004, a Mashad court gave him a suspended sentence of a year in prison. The authorities also closed down his blog and confiscated his computer. But he started up another blog a few months later.
He told Reporters Without Borders that this month's conviction is directly linked to the first one. He said the intelligence ministry asked for his case to be retried on the basis of new charges, including the fact that he gave interview to foreign radio stations. So the case was retried by another Mashad judge and this time he got a three-year suspended sentence. He will have to serve the sentence in prison if he gets into any kind of trouble with the authorities during the next five years.
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