TEHRAN, Iran – An Iranian court sentenced the leader of a reformist political party to more than two years in jail and revoked the license of the party's newspaper, his lawyer said Saturday.
Mohammad Salamati was found guilty of "insulting religious sanctities" and "propagating against the Islamic establishment," lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told The Associated Press.
Nikbakht said the Tehran Press Court sentenced Salamati to 26 months in jail and revoked the publishing license of the paper, Asr-e-Ma, or "Our Era."
Salamati appealed the sentence and was freed on $5,000 bail, Nikbakht said.
The lawyer said Asr-e-Ma, the weekly newspaper of Salamati's Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organization, would continue to be published until a final verdict is issued.
Iran's hard-line judiciary has closed more than 50 newspapers in the last 20 months, all but one of them pro-democracy publications.
The media crackdown was launched in April last year after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds more power than the elected president, said 10 to 15 reformist papers had been acting as "bases of the enemy."
"The unjust verdict ... shows that the mass closure of reformist papers was aimed at silencing voices demanding change," said an Asr-e-Ma editorial Saturday.
A party statement urged members to "reconsider our strategy of active calm and challenge anti-reformers through a new strategy of active resistance."
Salamati, a deputy minister of cooperation, was stabbed and injured in August by still unidentified attackers.
The judiciary is the most important instrument wielded by hard-liners to stifle President Mohammad Khatami and his reform movement launched after he swept into office in 1997.