Reformist Iranian Writer Sentenced

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By: Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writer

(AP) An outspoken journalist has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for allegedly spreading lies against Iran’s Islamic establishment, his wife said Monday.

A Press Court found Ahmad Zeidabadi guilty of insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and publishing lies against the Islamic establishment for the purpose of disturbing public opinion, his wife, Mahdiyeh Mohammadi, said.

Zeidabadi, 36, is best known for his political analyses and strongly worded comments in a number of reformist newspapers that were subsequently banned. He has criticized Iran’s religious leaders, saying they are unresponsive and acting as if they are above the law.

Mohammadi said the court sentenced her husband to 23 months in prison, seven months of which he has already spent in detention.

The sentence could not be immediately confirmed with court officials. It was handed down on April 17 but not made public.

Zeidabadi was arrested in August 2000. Last year, he was released on bail after a single hearing in court, his wife said.

“Nothing about this verdict looks normal,” Mohammadi’s wife told The Associated Press. “He spent seven months in jail without trial, and now the court verdict is issued more than a year after the end of a brief one-session trial,” she said.

Journalists and newspapers in Iran have been under assault from the judiciary, which is run by Islamic hard-liners opposed to the liberal President Mohammad Khatami.

Dozens of journalists and political activists have been put on trial, and 56 newspapers and magazines have been shut down over the past 24 months.

Nearly all the publications shut by the hard-liners backed Khatami’s pro-democracy reforms.

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