New York, April 28, 2017–Iranian authorities should immediately drop all charges against freelance journalist Issa Saharkhiz, who was sentenced yesterday to one year in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The sentence was handed down the day after Saharkhiz was released from jail on a separate charge, according to the journalist’s son and his lawyer.
Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, the journalist’s attorney, told the Tasnim news agency that a court found Saharkhiz guilty of insulting former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, and sentenced him to one year in prison.
Saharkhiz is also due to face trial on May 10 in a third case, on charges of “insulting officials,” according to his attorney and the journalist’s son, Mehdi Saharkhiz. The two latest charges and the sentence Saharkhiz just served relate to his 2015 arrest.
“Iran has been steadily turning up the heat on journalists ahead of the election next month,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “But to sentence Issa Saharkhiz to another prison term a day after his release is just cruel. The authorities should stop harassing him and his conviction should be overturned on appeal.”
Tabatabaei told the Tasnim news agency that Saharkhiz is not in custody and that he has appealed the sentence. The sentencing of Saharkhiz came one day after he was released from jail, where he was serving a sentence of insulting the supreme leader, his son, Mehdi Saharkhiz told CPJ.
Saharkhiz was arrested in a pre-election crackdown in November 2015, the same day that three reformist journalists–Saman Sarfarzaee, Afarin Chitsaz, and Ehsan Mazandarani–were arrested, according to reports. The journalist spent much of his sentence at the Tehran Heart Center due to health complications that followed his hunger strike in Evin prison, his son, Mehdi Saharkhiz, told CPJ last year. Last month, guards assaulted Saharkhiz while he was in hospital, Mehdi Saharkhiz told CPJ.
Authorities in Iran, which is scheduled to hold presidential elections on May 19, have cracked down on independent or critical journalists ahead of past elections, CPJ has found.