Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021 — Iranian journalist Mohamed Mosaed has requested asylum in Turkey, his lawyer Canan Pehlivan told the Committee Protect Journalist today. CPJ is calling on Turkish authorities to conduct an expedited review of his request, as Mosaed faces imprisonment in Iran in reprisal for his journalism.
Pehlivan told CPJ that Mosaed will be held at a Turkish migration center for the next 14 days, pursuant to the country’s COVID-19 regulations, and that Turkish officials had assured her that her client would not face deportation. That position was affirmed in a statement attributable to a senior Turkish security official—emailed yesterday to The New York Times and shared with CPJ–who said that Mosaed applied for international protection and that deportation “is not on the table.”
When he arrived in Turkey after crossing the border by foot yesterday, Mosaed told CPJ that Turkish police in the border city of Van detained him and said they would return him to Iranian custody. Mosaed has been sentenced to four years and nine months’ imprisonment in Iran in retaliation for his work.
“Mohammad Mosaed, who has long taken great personal risks to report the news, has further put his life on the line to avoid Iran’s notorious Evin Prison,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We are relieved that Turkish authorities will consider his asylum request and hopeful that he can continue to do his work and live as a free man.”
In addition to sentencing Mosaed to nearly five years in prison, Branch 26 of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court in August banned him for two years from any journalism activities and from using any communications devices, as CPJ documented.
The sentence, on charges of “colluding against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system,” was in connection to two past arrests. On November 22, 2019, after Mosaed posted on Twitter during a government-implemented internet shutdown, as CPJ documented, he was detained and sent to Evin prison for 16 days before being released on bail. On February 22, 2020, he was arrested again and detained for several hours after he posted critically about the government on social media, CPJ documented.
In November, CPJ honored Mosaed with its 2020 International Press Freedom Award for his courage covering corruption, demonstrations, and the Iranian government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite intimidation and the ever-present threat of ending up in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, independent journalists have persisted in bringing us the truth,” Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and a CPJ senior adviser, said while bestowing the award on Mosaed, who could not be interviewed for the occasion due to his sentence.
On December 12, Iranian authorities hanged journalist Roohollah Zam, editor of the Amad News Telegram channel, after sentencing him to death for his coverage of anti-government protests. The country held at least 15 journalists behind bars as of December 1, according to CPJ’s most recent global census of journalists imprisoned, which included Zam at the time.
CPJ called and emailed Fahrettin Altun, the head of media and communications at the office of the Turkish presidency, for comment, but did not receive any responses.