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Iran judge releases journalist charged with 'warring against God'

A judge from Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] on Sunday released [CHRR report] from prison Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], after she posted bail of USD $500,000, according to a local press reports. While Judge Pierre Abbasi has not yet issued a final ruling [Kaleme report, in Persian] or announced Ahari's official sentence, defense lawyers for Ahari are pushing for all charges to be cleared. Earlier this month, the court concluded the one-day trial [JURIST report] of Ahari. During the Tehran trial, conducted by head judge Pyrbasy, Ahari faced charges of warring against God [CHRR report], known in Islamic law as Moharebeh, conspiring to commit a crime, propaganda against the revolution and disturbing the public order, violating several articles of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran [MEHR backgrounder, PDF]. Conviction on a charge of Moharebeh could result in the death penalty. Ahari was also charged [Al Jazeera report] with ties to the People's Mujahedeen of Iran [CFR backgrounder], an exiled organization that advocates for the overthrow of the Iranian government. The charges have been criticized by opposition organizations in Iran and rights groups worldwide.

Ahari was first arrested following the June 2009 presidential elections, which resulted in widespread charges of fraud and nationwide protests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website], this is the first time that a journalist has been charged with a capital crime in Iran. In May, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] included Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profiles] of Iran in a report listing 40 "Predators of Press Freedom" [JURIST report] throughout the world. Pyrabasy previously presided over the trial of Mohammad Nourizad, a prominent Iranian journalist and filmmaker, who was sentenced in April to three-and-a-half years [JURIST report] in prison and 50 lashes for his activities after the 2009 elections. Nourizad was sentenced for "distributing propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and desecrating the image of thirty years of the Islamic establishment," and insulting the supreme leader, the president, the head of the judiciary and Ayatollah Elmolhoda of the Assembly of Experts. In December, Iranian economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz was sentenced to a nine-year jail term [JURIST report] for possessing classified information and participating in protests following the 2009 elections. Thousands were arrested during the protests following the contested election.

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