Iranian journalist Kasra Nouri is serving a 12-year sentence on anti-state charges in Adel-Abad Prison near the central city of Shiraz. He was arrested in February 2018 while covering religious protests for the Majzooban-e-Noor website, which covers news about the Gonabadi Dervishes, a Sufi splinter group. Despite multiple requests for furlough from Nouri, his family, and his lawyer, he was not granted any temporary release during the coronavirus outbreak.
Iranian security forces arrested Nouri while he was covering the violent dispersal of religious protests in Tehran on February 19, 2018, according to his outlet Majzooban-e-Noor and the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
The clashes—which broke out between Tehran security forces and members of the Gonabadi Dervishes, who were protesting the arrest of one of their members—resulted in six fatalities, including five police officers, and over 300 arrests, according to news reports.
The last tweets on Nouri’s personal Twitter account are from February 19, posting coverage of the protests.
Farhad Nouri, the website’s editor-in-chief, told CHRI on February 23, 2018, that Kasra Nouri received a blow to the head that broke his skull and sent him into a coma, but did not offer more details. Farhad Nouri also told CHRI that Kasra Nouri was being held at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary—known as Fashafouyeh Prison—following a hospital stay for treatment. It was unclear how long he was hospitalized before being transferred to prison.
Nouri was sentenced to 12 years in prison, 74 lashes, two years in exile in a remote city, a two-year ban on political, social and media activities, and a two-year ban on traveling outside Iran, U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on July 30, 2018. Judge Mashaullah Ahmadzadeh, the head of Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, tried Nouri and issued the verdict against him in absentia, RFE/RL reported. In a July 28 post on Twitter, Majzooban-e-Noor said Nouri was convicted on a number of charges. An August 29 report by Human Rights Watch said those charges included "assembly and collusion against national security," "disrupting public order," "rebelling against officers on duty," and "propaganda against the state."
CHRI reported on September 19, 2018, that Nouri and other Dervishes were sent to solitary confinement for taking part in a sit-in protest at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, and on October 17, Majzooban-e-Noor tweeted that Nouri was among eight Dervishes who had been separated from other prisoners for 50 days. Nouri and the rest of the group were ultimately kept in solitary confinement for 105 days before being transferred back to the public ward, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported on December 13, 2018.
In an open letter in December 2018, 23 Gonabadi Dervishes, including Nouri and five other Majzooban-e-Noor journalists, wrote “they do not find the Revolutionary Court legitimate and the Appeals Court is just a deceptive show,” CHRI reported on March 16, 2019.
To demonstrate against the perceived illegitimacy of the court, the group did not appeal their initial sentences, Majzooban-e-Noor reported on March 12, 2019. The appeals court therefore upheld their verdicts, according to Majzooban-e-Noor, media reports, and tweets from family members of the detained Dervishes. CPJ could not determine the exact date of the appeal hearing.
Nouri’s brother, Pooria Nouri, wrote on his personal Twitter account on March 9, 2019, “due to my brother’s decision not to appeal his verdict, his initial sentence was upheld and communicated/announced to him today in prison.”
In early December 2019, Nouri was transferred to Adel-Abad prison, Pooria Nouri tweeted.
On February 26, 2020, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, in a bid to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iranian jails, ordered about 70,000 prisoners to be released from custody temporarily, including some political prisoners such as journalists, according to news reports.
According to Pooria Nouri, who spoke to CPJ via email on September 21, 2020, despite the judiciary’s order and multiple furlough requests from Nouri, his family, and lawyer Farshid Yadollahifarsi, he remains in Adel-Abad prison.
Pooria described Nouri’s “general health as good, despite several reports of coronavirus cases in the prison.”
Nouri was previously arrested and spent time in prison, accused of anti-regime activities. He was arrested in January 2018 and held for 11 days in Evin Prison, where he went on hunger strike, his mother told BBC Persian Service at the time. Nouri recounted the January 2018 arrest in an interview with Iranian diaspora news website IranWire.
Nouri was also arrested in 2012 and was sentenced in 2013 to four years and four months in prison for "propaganda against the regime," "acting against national security," "insulting the Supreme Leader," and "membership in the Majzooban-e-Noor group," according to Majzooban-e-Noor.
CPJ was unable to contact Iran’s Ministry of Justice or the judiciary of Tehran province via their websites, which were not functioning in late 2020. CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the United Nations in September 2020 for comment on Nouri and other cases of imprisoned Iranian journalists, but did not receive a response.