A journalist has been handed down a sentence of 10 years in prison and 148 lashes after attending International Workers’ Day rallies while reporting for Shargh newspaper.
Marzieh Amiri has been charged with “assembly and conspiracy against national security," "propaganda against the regime” and “disrupting public order,” and has been in prison since May 1. She was sentenced by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court. Reporting the verdict, her sister Samira Amir tweeted that Marzieh must serve a minimum of six years of her sentence if the verdict is upheld by the appeals court. Moghiseh issued the verdict less than two weeks ago but the full details are still unknown.
Amiri received her longest prison sentence for conspiracy against national security, based on Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code, which states: “When two or more individuals collude and conspire to commit crimes against the national or foreign security of the country or prepare the facilities to commit the aforementioned crime… they shall be sentenced to two to five years’ imprisonment.”
Marzieh Amiri suffers from epilepsy and her health has deteriorated due to the stressful prison environment. Nevertheless, her lawyer’s repeated requests for her to be released from detention have not been granted. On August 15, before the verdict against her was issued, Amiri’s lawyer Arash Dowlatshahi told Ensaf News that his client was in need of urgent care and treatment [Persian link]. He also said that the preliminary investigations and interrogations had been conducted in prison without the presence of a lawyer and, consequently, lacked legal validity. Dowlatshahi said he strongly denied charges against his client because, he said, “they were based on accusations by others against Marzieh Amiri and these claims cannot be independently verified.”
Dowlatshahi did not provide further details about the claims, but said, “under the law, statements made by a defendant only count as valid evidence if they are made in normal conditions and the same goes for confessions. In other words, the confessions of a defendant against herself is valid evidence only if it is done under certain conditions.”
Confessions under Pressure
“The evidence presented at court,” Dowlatshahi said, “were based on preliminary investigations and we do not consider them valid because it was done without the presence of her lawyer and must not have been presented to the court.” He also said that Amiri had been “under pressure” in detention and had been kept separate from other inmates; therefore, the conditions were not right for her confessions to be considered as valid. Furthermore, the inmates who made claims against her had also been held in similar situations.
Approximately 20 days after Marzieh Amiri was arrested, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said the charges against her were “security-related” and therefore she could not choose her own lawyer during interrogations. Under a law implemented in 2015, defendants charged with security crimes can only choose a lawyer from a small list approved by the head of the judiciary — despite the fact that the right to choose a lawyer independently is enshrined in Iran’s constitution and several other of the country’s laws.
The controversial provision was set out in Article 48 of the revised Code of Criminal Procedure. This article states that, in the preliminary investigation stage of a case, an individual accused of crimes against the internal and external security of the country or of any form of organized crime that can be punishable by harsh sentences under Article 302 of Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure — which includes punishments such as the death penalty, life imprisonment, and the amputation of limbs — will only be allowed to choose his or her lawyer from a pre-approved list of lawyers issued by the head of the judiciary.
Marzieh Amiri reports on the economy for Shargh, one of Iran’s best-known reformist newspapers, and studies sociology at Tehran University. After her arrest, one of Amiri’s close friends told IranWire’s sister website Journalism is Not A Crime that Amiri’s arrest on International Workers’ Day was not arbitrary, and that the arresting agents presented a warrant with her name on it.
Marzieh Amiri had been arrested once before, during the January 2018 protests that erupted in dozens of Iranian cities. She was also among the many who were arrested on May Day, International Workers' Day, and in the days leading up to it.
Workers Beaten and Arrested at May Day Parade, May 1, 2019
Crackdown on Labor Activists on Eve of May Day, April 29, 2019