From The New York Times:
Harsh Sentence in Absentia for Newsweek Reporter
By NAZILA FATHI
A correspondent for Newsweek jailed in Iran for nearly four months last year before leaving the country has been sentenced in absentia by an Iranian court to an extended flogging and more than 13 years in prison for counter-revolutionary acts, the government there announced Monday.
The severity of the sentence, announced a day after five Iranian Kurdish activists were abruptly hanged in a Tehran prison, appeared to be a new signal of repression ahead of the anniversary of the disputed presidential election last June 12, which galvanized Iran’s opposition movement into the biggest political threat to the Islamic theocracy since the 1979 revolution.
The Newsweek reporter, Maziar Bahari, 42, an Iranian-Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker, was arrested in the days after the election, when massive demonstrations erupted in Iran over charges that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had stolen the vote. Mr. Bahari was jailed for 118 days and released on a $300,000 bail. He flew to London after his release to join his newborn daughter and wife.
The court sentenced him to a total of 13 years and 6 months in prison and 74 lashes on charges of conspiring against national security, possession of classified documents, propagating against the regime, insulting the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as Mr. Ahmadinejad. He has the right to appeal within 10 days.
In another official Iranian measure apparently aimed at exerting more control over the capital, the government said it was shutting down schools and universities next Saturday and Sunday which would bring a long weekend in Tehran that begins on Thursday to five days. The move effectively denies student activists a venue for any protests.
The opposition Web site Jaras reported Monday that more than 1,000 students staged a demonstration at Shahid Beheshti University to protest a visit by Mr. Ahmadinejad. He faced similar demonstrations on May 1 when he visited Tehran University.
In the city of Kamyaran in Kurdistan province, the home town of one of the activists executed on Sunday, authorities imposed heavy security to prevent possible protests over the executions, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency. “Dozens of members of the Revolutionary Guards paraded around town in military vehicles, showing off their weapons,” the news agency reported, referring to members of the pro-government force set up after the 1979 revolution.
A call for demonstrations near Tehran University on Monday in central Tehran to protest the executions went unheeded, apparently because of massive police presence.
The Judiciary has issued dozens of lengthy sentences for activists in the past weeks and has suspended prisoners’ calls to their families from prison, the Jaras Web site reported.
Mr. Bahari said from his home in London that he would not appeal the sentence because he does not recognize the sentence’s validity. “When you appeal, that means you believe in the essence of the sentence,” he said “I don’t.”
The sentence was issued after Mr. Bahari did not respond to a summons to appear before a court in April. The legal procedure requires the court to summon the accused three times before issuing a sentence in absentia.
Mr. Bahari said his mother in Tehran had received a call from authorities on the same day warning her to urge Mr. Bahari to end his activities abroad in support of other jailed reporters .
“The government wants to prevent people from coming into the streets for the anniversary of the demonstrations with these sentences,” said Mr. Bahari. “In the meantime, with my sentence, it wants to intimidate reporters as well so that they would not cover the protests.”