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Newsweek Iraq correspondent sentenced in absentia

On Sunday, Tehran’s Revolutionary Court handed down a sentence of 13 years in prison and extended lashing to Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari for a range of anti-state offenses including “propagation against the regime,” “insulting the President (Ahmadinejad),” and “insulting the Supreme Leader (Ayotollah Khameni)”

“We condemn the conviction of Manziar Bahari,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the Committee to Protect Journalists North Africa and Middle East Program coordinator. “Bahari’s trial bears no resemblance to a legal process.”

Bahari was arrested in June 2009 in the wake of President Ahmadinejad’s re-election, which had sparked waves of angry protest by opposition supporters. Bahari was held for 118 days and charged, amongst other things, with spying for the United States, although these charges were not mentioned at the trial.

“None of those charges made any more or less sense than the ones I was sentenced for so why leave them out?” commented Bahari in response to his conviction.

Iran has been described by watchdogs as the “world’s worst jailer of journalists.” Reporters Without Borders have featured both President Ahmadinejad and Ayotollah Khameni in their “Predators of Press Freedom” campaign. The Press Freedom organization has advocated greater international intervention in the situation in Iran for some time. “The United Nations High Commissioner cannot remain silent any longer. A special UN rapporteur must be sent to Iran as a matter of urgency.”

Since his release in October, Bahari has been a major voice of the “Our Society Will Be A Free Society” petition to release Iranian journalists and has appealed extensively against the conditions faced by journalists in the country. In an interview with the Associated Press, Bahari said that the recent convictions against himself and other Iranian journalists are an attempt by the Iranian government to prevent critical reports or protests on the anniversary of President Ahmadinejad’s re-election

“They want to scare as many people as possible in order to prevent people from coming to the streets.”

Photo Credit: Iranian Fars News Agency