[JURIST] Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] on Saturday concluded the one-day trial of Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. 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]. Conviction on a charge of Moharebeh can 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. Shortly before the commencement of the trial, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized the proceedings [press release], calling on the Iranian government to:
[I]mmediately release Shiva Nazar Ahari and drop any charges brought against her solely for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association. This trial seems to be more about the Iranian security forces seeking to justify the continuation of the clampdown on dissent and human rights defenders than about a genuine process towards obtaining justice. Not granting Shiva Nazar Ahari regular access to her lawyer, or her family, not only dramatically increases the potential for her to be exposed to torture and other ill-treatment, but has also undermined the integrity and fairness of the whole trial.
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.