An appeals court in Tehran has sentenced six individuals to prison terms ranging from five to seven years for postings on their Facebook pages. Two additional individuals are facing as of yet unknown terms for their activities on the social networking site.
These are the final verdicts for a group of eight Facebook users arrested in 2014, and represent a reduction from sentences that originally ranged as high as 20 years for their posting of peaceful online content. The sentences indicate a continuation of an assault on freedom of speech in Iran that has increasingly focused on social media.
A source familiar with the case informed the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran of these sentences, and said that the court’s ruling, which was served to six of the suspects’ lawyers last week, indicated that they were given maximum sentence according to the New Islamic Penal Code.
“It is still not clear which charges the Appeals Court Judge has used for the five individuals’ seven-year sentences. They were all charged with “assembly and collusion against national security” and “insulting the sacred,” and the maximum penalty for each is seven years in prison,” said the source.
Massoud Seyed Talebi, Farid Akramipour, Fariborz Kardar Fard, Massoud Ghasemkhani, and Amir Golestani were each sentenced to seven years, and Mehdi Reyshahri was sentenced to five years in prison. Regarding the two other individuals, both female, whose final ruling is unknown, Roya Saberi Nobakht is being held inside Gharchak Prison in Varamin, and the other, who has two young children, was released on bail upon completion of interrogations in 2014.
The eight suspects were sentenced on charges such as “insulting the Supreme Leader,” “insulting state officials,” and “propaganda against the state.”
“Lawyers for these individuals insist on knowing which of the charges the Judge used for issuing the seven-year sentence, because although the two charges have the same length of imprisonment as maximum punishment, they have different legal ramifications,” said the source.
“According to the New Islamic Penal Code, if an individual is charged with ‘insulting the sacred,’ he or she can request conditional release after serving 1/3 of the sentence; however, for the charge of ‘assembly and collusion,’ there is no conditional release. Therefore, if their sentence is related to the charge of ‘insulting the sacred,’ they can apply for conditional release after serving 2.5 years in prison,” the source stated.
The source also noted that the six individuals were being held in very poor conditions inside Evin Prison. “Last week, for unknown reasons, prison officials transferred them from Ward 350 to Ward 8, a ward that does not have suitable sanitary and living conditions and it is a ward in which prisoners with different types of crimes are held. The six men sleep on the floor [because there are no beds available for them in this ward].”
According to a report by IRNA on July 13, 2014, the eight young individuals active on Facebook were originally sentenced on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “insulting the sacred, insulting Heads of Branches, and insulting individuals.” The report indicated that the IRGC’s Sarallah Base had pursued and identified the eight individuals and arrested them in July 2013. The case was reviewed at the Evin Prison Courts and forwarded to Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court on February 16, 2014.