Last Updated: Mon Dec 13, 2010 19:01 pm (KSA) 16:01 pm (GMT)

Iranian journalist sentenced to 16 months in jail

Shamsolvaezin was arrested several times for criticism of the regime
Shamsolvaezin was arrested several times for criticism of the regime

Prominent Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin was sentenced to 16 months in jail on charges of insulting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and criticizing the Islamic regime.

Shamsolvaezin, head of the Journalists’ Association of Iran and the editor of several reformist newspapers that were closed by the government, was also accused of giving interviews and statements that undermined the Islamic government.

 I said in the interview that Ahmadinejad suffers from megalomania and the judge stated that I labeled the president ‘insane’  
Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin

“I was summoned to the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran and was told that I was sentenced to one year in jail for destabilizing the regime and another four months for insulting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel,” Shamsolvaezin told Al Arabiya Sunday in a phone interview following the verdict.

Shamsolvaezin denied having insulted the president or the regime and said the verdict was based on one single word that was taken from the interview and mistranslated.

“I said in the interview that Ahmadinejad suffers from megalomania and the judge stated that I labeled the president ‘insane.’ We do have a translation problem in Iran.”

Since the verdict was issued by a court of first instance, Shamsolvaezin has 20 days to appeal, and he stressed that this is what his lawyer will do.

Besides his interview with Al Arabiya, Shamsolvaezin earned his jail sentence for giving statements critical of the Iranian government to foreign news networks like the BBC, Iranian pro-reform websites like Rooz Online, and other Western media outlets like the German Der Spiegel.

In addition to charges of threatening national security, Shamsolvaezin was also accused of writing an article in which he defended Nazak Afshar, an employee at the cultural service of the French Embassy in Tehran.

Afshar was arrested during the political unrest that followed the reelection of President Ahmadinejad in 2009 and was accused of inciting rebellion and sheltering dissidents.

History of arrests and closures

Shamsolvaezin, who works as an advisor to the Tehran-based Center for Middle East Strategic Studies, was the editor-in-chief of several independent dailies like Jame’eh, Neshat, and Asr-e Azadegan—all closed by the Iranian government for promoting progressive ideologies and publishing articles written by dissident exiles and pro-reform activists.

Shamsolvaezin was imprisoned for 35 days after the closure of Jame’eh in 1998 then was sentenced in 2000 to 30 months in jail on charges of insulting the principles of Islam for publishing in Neshat an article slamming the capital punishment in Iran.

In December 2009, Shamsolvaezin was arrested for involvement in post-election protests and stayed in prison till February 2010, when he was released on bail.

For his role in promoting civil liberties and freedom of expression in Iran, Shamsolvaezin was awarded in 2000 the International Press Freedom Award offered by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

According to CPJ, more than 40 journalists are currently detained in Iran which, together with China, tops the list of countries with the highest rates of press freedom detentions and crackdown on journalists.


(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)

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