Iran sentences prominent rights activist to 6 years in jail, but she escapes death penalty
TEHRAN, Iran – TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran sentenced a prominent rights activist and journalist to six years in prison on anti-government charges, Iranian media reported Saturday.
The semiofficial ILNA news agency said Shiva Nazar Ahari, founder of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters in Tehran, was convicted of moharebeh, or "waging war against God," a crime usually punishable by death. ILNA said Ahari received three years for that charge.
She was also convicted of plotting to commit crimes and agitating against the ruling system, ILNA said.
In total, Ahari received six years in jail, and has been ordered to pay $400 as a substitute for 76 lashes.
ILNA quoted Ahari's lawyer, Mohammad Sharif, as saying he was "shocked" to learn his client had been convicted of moharebeh, saying "there is no legal basis for this charge against her."
Sharif said he plans to file an appeal.
Ahari faced the moharebeh charge for her alleged membership in the exile Mujahedeen-e Khalq Organization. She has denied any connection to the organization, which is the militant wing of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran.
The Mujahedeen-e Khalq fought alongside Saddam Hussein's forces during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and carried out a series of bloody bombings and assassinations in Iran during that decade, though it says it renounced violence in 2001.
Ahari was released from jail last week after posting a $500,000 bail.
Human rights groups have dismissed the claims against her as "trumped-up charges," saying the accusations against Ahari stemmed from her participation in protest rallies after Iran's disputed June 2009 presidential elections.
Ahari, who is also a journalist, was arrested last December and held at Tehran's Evin prison with little access to her lawyer and family members. She reportedly spent long periods in solitary confinement.
Since Iran's June 2009 disputed presidential election, journalists have become a prime target in the Iranian government's crackdown on the opposition. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report in March that at least 52 journalists are now in Iranian jails.