Iran editor jailed for insulting leaders

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Reuters: An Iranian journalist has been jailed for 14 years on charges ranging from espionage to insulting the country’s leaders in an unusually heavy sentence in Iran, where tens of journalists have been tried in recent years. Rights activists said on Tuesday that Arash Sigarchi, 28, was convicted by the Revolutionary Court in the Caspian province of Gilan in northern Iran. Reuters

TEHRAN – An Iranian journalist has been jailed for 14 years on charges ranging from espionage to insulting the country’s leaders in an unusually heavy sentence in Iran, where tens of journalists have been tried in recent years.

Rights activists said on Tuesday that Arash Sigarchi, 28, was convicted by the Revolutionary Court in the Caspian province of Gilan in northern Iran.

Sigarchi, a newspaper editor in Gilan who also wrote an Internet journal or “weblog”, was arrested last month after responding to a summons from the Intelligence Ministry.

“In total, he has been given 14 years in prison,” Mohammad Saifzadeh, a member of Centre for Defence of Human Rights in Tehran told Reuters by telephone.

Sigarchi’s family has asked Saifzadeh and Iran’s 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi to represent him in an appeal.

“I have compiled almost 12 pages of wrongdoings in the process of his arrest, interrogations and detention,” Saifzadeh said. “His charges are political and journalistic and he should have been tried by a public court in the presence of a jury.”

Iran’s judiciary has closed down more than 100 liberal publications in the past five years and jailed many journalists, earning Iran the reputation as the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East, according to rights groups.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Sigarchi had been updating a weblog in which he had spoken out about the arrest of more than 20 Internet journalists, technicians and webbloggers late last year.

Most of that group have subsequently been released, although several complained of being tortured and forced to write false confessions while in detention.