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IRAN: Eleven Internet Professionals Sentenced to One to Eleven Years in Prison

Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Eleven Kerman Province Internet professionals have been sentenced to prison, with terms ranging from one to eleven years.

World Cup and Prison
cartoon by Touka Neyestani

Yadollah Movahed, the Prosecutor for Kerman Province General and Revolutionary Courts, said at a press conference on June 19, 2014, that the eleven individuals were arrested and prosecuted for “designing sites, websites, and creating content for media hostile to the regime.”

Though Movahed did not mention any names or offer any other details about the individuals, he did make a reference to the holding company of the Narenji website, Paat Shargh Govashir. Naranji was a popular website specializing in computer and Internet technology. On December 3, 2013, seven Narenji website employees and managers were arrested. The identities of the other four convicted individuals remain unknown.

Narenji announced on December 3, 2013, that seven members of its editorial and technical team, Ali Asghar Honarmand, Abbas Vahedi, Alireza Vaziri, Nassim Nikmehr, Maliheh Naghaei, Mohammad Hossein Mousazadeh, and Sara Sajadpour had been arrested by the Intelligence Unit of the IRGC in Kerman. The next day, Kerman’s Deputy Prosecutor announced the arrests of 16 website designers and Internet professionals in Kerman Province, stating the charges facing the group of individuals “who worked within a complex security-media network” were “committing cyber crimes and relations with foreigners.”

The ambiguous June 19 statements made by the Kerman Prosecutor follows an opaque judicial process and there is no indication whether the suspects were offered access to due process, legal representation, and a fair trial.

Yadollah Movahed, the Prosecutor for Kerman Province General and Revolutionary Courts

The Prosecutor claimed that the individuals were in contact with news networks such as BBC Persian. “These individuals secretly delivered information to hostile media [at the time] they were identified by the IRGC Intelligence Unit in Kerman,” said Yadollah Movahed. The Kerman Prosecutor also told the reporters that some of the suspects had “confessed.” “Many of the suspects confessed to these activities and were tried at the Revolutionary Court. In the end, their punishment was determined according to the level of their influence and interference. These punishments range from one to eleven years in prison,” said Movahed, adding that the sentences are not yet finalized. “While some of the main suspects are in prison, sentences for five individuals have been suspended,” he said.

Detainees in Iran are routinely forced to “confess,” and these confessions are then broadcast on national TV by the Islamic Republic Broadcasting (IRIB) and used as the primary evidence to convict.

On December 9, 2013, the Iranian state television showed images of several men they claimed had been in contact with and funded by “espionage networks,” charged with “offering reporter training seminars in Turkey and Malaysia,” “internet activities aiming for a soft overthrow of the Iranian regime,” and “contact with foreign media, including the BBC.” In the images, the men, who are wearing prison uniforms, were all facing a wall with their hands handcuffed behind them.

On April 23, 2014, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-governmental US foundation dedicated to protecting civil rights in the digital and Internet world, published a statement demanding the release of the Narenji managers and contributors.

Narenji was a website dedicated to publishing news about the information technology world. It was one of the most popular IT websites in Iran, and had won awards for its content.

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