Following the sentencing of journalist Jila Baniyaghoub to one year in prison and 30-years’ ban from any journalistic activity, her lawyer, Farideh Gheirat, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that such a punishment does not exist in Iranian law and the basis for such ruling is unclear. In legal circles, questions regarding the ruling were raised when a lower court announced Baniyaghoub’s sentence a few months ago. The case has garnered renewed interest since an appeals upheld Baniyaghoub’s sentence due to issues regarding the judicial review of political and media cases. Considering Baniyaghoub’s age, her 30 year deprivation sentence effectively terminates her professional journalism career.
Jila Baniyaghoub was arrested immediately after the 2009 presidential election and spent 60 days in prison. Gheirat emphasized that her client has committed no crime other than doing her work. “Unfortunately, despite our request for appeal, the sentence was upheld. There is no such punishment as a ’30 year ban on professional work’ in our laws and it is not clear based upon which laws this ruling has been made. The important point is that if this journalist has committed a violation, which of course I do not see any violations in her doing her journalistic work, the sentence should have been proportionate to the crime. In our laws, for example, if a doctor commits a violation, his medical license is suspended for some time, but a 30-year deprivation from his professional work, which essentially means a lifetime ban, has never happened and is not addressed anywhere in the law,” Gheirat told the Campaign.
“Ms. Baniyaghoub is a journalist and reporter. During her life, she has never done any type of work other than journalism, but unfortunately she has been accused of the same charge three times over the past years. Branches 13 and 15 of the Revolutionary Courts and Branch 18 of Tehran General Courts have previously prosecuted her on the same charges. I represented her during those trials, too, and when we provided explanations to the judges, they were fortunately accepted and all three courts acquitted my client. But during last year’s trial, she was convicted of ‘writing.’ I expressed at that trial again that Ms. Baniyaghoub’s cases have ended and that she could not be re-tried on the same charge. A case that has gone to court before and Ms. Baniyaghoub has been found innocent in it, cannot be raised again. But the court did not pay attention, and Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Courts sentenced her to one year in prison and 30 years’ ban on journalism,” Gheirat added.
Regarding what further recourse exists in the case, Gheirat said the only option left is using the “extraordinary means of review” article. “Of course, sometimes this step is accepted as a means of appeal, and sometimes it is not. If we are granted this chance, perhaps we can request a sentence reduction. Of course I was optimistic about the appeals stage, too, and to my disbelief, no reduction was granted,” she said.
Jila Baniyaghoub worked for several newspapers including Hamshahri, Sobh-e Emrooz, Azad, Khordad, Fath, Norooz, and Sarmayeh. She also served as Editor-in-Chief of the website Focus on Iranian Women. Baniyaghoub was awarded the “International Freedom of Speech Award” in 2009, and in 2010 won the “Freedom of Speech Award” from Reporters Without Borders.