An Iranian court has sentenced eight people to a combined 123 years in prison for various charges including insulting the country’s supreme leader on Facebook. The sentencing is the latest in a recent crackdown on Internet freedom in the country.
The eight, who were reportedly all Facebook users, were arrested last year by the Cyber Unit of the Revolutionary Guard. The Revolutionary Court in Tehran doled out prison sentences ranging from seven to 20 years for charges of blasphemy, propaganda against the Iranian state, spreading lies, and insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The arrests were first reported by the opposition news agency Kaleme.
For Iranian human rights experts, the sentences are unusually harsh and could signal an intention to warn other Iranian netizens.
“The ruling […] is clearly intended to spread fear among Internet users in Iran, and dissuade Iranians from stepping outside strict state controls on cyberspace,” wrote the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in a statement.
One of the eight, a British woman named Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, received a sentence of 20 years in prison. Her husband said in April that she had been detained in Iran over comments she had made to friends on Facebook and in online chat, calling Iran’s government too controlling and “too Islamic,” as reported at the time by the Manchester Evening News.
Gissou Nia, the executive director of the The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), noted that the Judge mistakenly applied “a new and controversial provision” of the nation’s penal code and gave harsher sentences than would have otherwise been allowed.
“20 years for posting on Facebook? For goodness’ sake.
This is an extraordinarily harsh and disproportionate punishment,” she told Mashable in an email.
“Unfortunately for her, the case was reviewed by Judge Moghiseh, a notorious Revolutionary Court judge who has had a long history of handing down extremely harsh sentences to activists, lawyers and journalists.”
The British government acknowledged the arrest in a statement to Mashable, but declined to answer more specific questions.
“We are aware that a British national has received a custodial sentence in Iran,” a spokesperson for the U.K.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office said. “We are seeking to establish the full facts and are following up the case with the Iranian authorities.”
Little is known about the others arrested, aside from their names and respective sentences: Amir Golestani, 20 years; Masoud Ghasemkhani, 19 years and 91 days;
Fariborz Kardarfar, 18 years and 91 days; Seyed Masoud Seyed Talebi, 15 years and one day; Amin Akramipour, 13 years; Mehdi Reyshahri, 11 years; and Naghmeh Shahisavandi Shirazi, 7 years and 91 days.