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Freedom of Speech in Iran: Activist Gets One-Year Prison Sentence for SPIEGEL Interview

Last week Iranian activist Abed Tavancheh was sentenced to one year in prison for giving an interview to SPIEGEL about student protests. His lawyer Naser Zarafshan says his client doesn't regret speaking out.

Pro-reform students march at Tehran University in December 2009. Zoom
AP

Pro-reform students march at Tehran University in December 2009.

SPIEGEL: Your client Abed Tavancheh was supposed to have been arrested last Tuesday. What do the authorities in Iran accuse him of having done?

Naser Zarafshan: Abed Tavancheh fights for freedom of expression and democracy. He had already been arrested four times and sentenced to eight months' imprisonment. A part of the current allegations against him relate to these activities. The primary charge, though, has to do with an interview he did with SPIEGEL in September about the tense atmosphere in the universities. The state prosecutor says that by doing this he spread "propaganda against the holy order of the Islamic Republic" and that he "incited unrest."

SPIEGEL: How did the authorities become aware of the interview?

Zarafshan: Immediately after the publication of the interview, a "special report" was published in a large, extremely conservative daily newspaper. The report labeled SPIEGEL a "Zionist magazine" and Tavancheh was harshly attacked as a "US-oriented left winger." Subsequently the state prosecutor summoned him.

SPIEGEL: Did the case go to trial?

Zarafshan: The interrogation was followed by three hearings before a revolutionary tribunal. I was even not summoned to two of the hearings. One cannot hope for justice there. We cited the right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed in our constitution. Nevertheless the court considered the interview to be a "violation of national security." For this, Tavancheh got a new prison sentence of one year.

SPIEGEL: Did your client accept the verdict?

Zarafshan: No, we don't recognize this verdict, which wasn't even given to us in writing. Because my client assumed he would be arrested, he quickly left the courtroom.

SPIEGEL: Now the authorities are looking for Tavancheh. Does he now regret having given the interview?

Zarafshan: My client knew what he was getting into. He stands by every sentence.

Interview conducted by Dieter Bednarz

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1. Ahmadinejad interviews Spiegel also!
dustandtrash 01/22/2010
So he has to be sentenced, too.
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