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Iranian Court Sentences Independent Journalist

(Prague, Czech Republic–February 25, 2005) Iranian weblogger and journalist Arash Sigarchi, who has been interviewed by Radio Farda, a U.S.-financed radio station broadcasting in Persian to Iran, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on February 22 by a revolutionary tribunal in Gilan, northern Iran. The tribunal falsely accused him of working for Radio Farda.

International press in Canada and France reported on February 23 that Reporters Without Borders issued a statement expressing outrage at the sentence and calling on Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to intervene. The RWP statement said Iranian authorities are trying to intimidate other journalists by making an example of Sigarchi. “By handing down this harsh sentence against a weblogger, their aim is to dissuade journalists and Internet-users from expressing themselves on-line or contacting foreign media,” it said.

Sigarchi, 28 years old, has been held at Lakan Prison in the Iranian city of Rashat since he was arrested on January 17. He was found guilty of espionage and insulting the country’s leaders. Since Iranian law does not allow a citizen to be sentenced for a political offense, opponents of the regime and journalists are routinely accused of being spies or enemies of the revolution.

Radio Farda, a joint project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VOA), is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service. Broadcast from Washington and Prague and transmitted to listeners via AM, shortwave and satellite and Internet, it features at least 8 hours of news and current affairs programming daily as well as Western and Persian music aimed at a younger audience. Radio Farda programming is also available via the Internet, at the service’s website and at