Iranian journalist Nasrullah Lashani, a Kurdish freelance political reporter and commentator, is serving a six-year prison term, plus an additional year for overstaying furloughs, in Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj province. Lashani, who was convicted on anti-state charges including “spreading propaganda against the system” and “colluding against national security,” was detained on June 7, 2020.
Authorities first arrested Lashani in 2013 over his coverage of that year’s presidential election, and held him in pretrial detention for over two months, according to a report by the exile-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). HRANA reported that in May 2014 he was tried by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court, and two months later was convicted of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “colluding against national security.”
Since he became eligible for early release in 2019 authorities repeatedly permitted him to leave prison on furlough, Lashini’s lawyer, Kimia Korous, said via the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency.
In the spring of 2020, during one of his furloughs, Lashani traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan. He also published multiple articles during his furlough periods, including one from May 2020, favorably comparing Iraq’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to Iran’s.
Lashani was arrested upon his return from Iraqi Kurdistan in Urmia, in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, on June 7, 2020, by intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Korous, told ILNA. Authorities detained Lashini in Tehran’s Evin Prison before moving him to Rajaei-Shahr Prison in Karaj province, where he remains, according to that report.
Korous told ILNA that Lashani’s current detention is based on new charges related to his writing during his furloughs and crossing the Iraqi border. She said Lashani had been sentenced to receive 30 lashes for crossing the border and was also charged with belonging to a Kurdish opposition group. She did not provide any details about possible upcoming court dates related to the second set of charges, HRANA reported.
CPJ was not able to locate contact information for Korous.
Since May 2020, Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of activists and students in a crackdown on perceived pro-Kurdish movements in the country, according to reports. Authorities arrested at least eight Kurdish journalists during that time; two of those journalists–Lashani and Navid Seyed-Mohammadi–remain in detention.
A lawyer representing several of the journalists, who spoke to CPJ at the time on the condition that their name and clients not be identified, said the IRGC was “very sensitive about Kurdish journalists and the topics they write about, especially if they write about unity of Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds, and other regional issues of Kurds.” The lawyer added that authorities are also “sensitive every time Kurdish journalists travel to Kurdish areas of Iraq such as Erbil. They closely monitor all movements across the border and any journalists’ assembly.”
Lashani started a hunger strike on September 19, 2021, to protest “the judiciary’s lack of independence in handling his case,” according to a report by HRANA, which said that he suffers from multiple unspecified health issues as a result of the hunger strike. According to a source who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal, the strike lasted 12 days.
Lashani’s wife, Sheila Ghasemkhani tweeted on September 7, 2022 that Lashani has to remain in prison for an additional year on top of his six-year sentence. The source told CPJ that authorities added the time because Lashani overstayed his furloughs.
CPJ emailed Iran’s Mission to the United Nations, for comment about the Lashani’s case in September 2022, but did not receive any response.