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Campaign groups call for release of Iranian journalist sentenced to ten years in prison over two tweets

Campaign groups have called for the release of an Iranian journalist jailed over two tweets, including one calling for supplies and food to be sent to Gaza.

Amir Hossein Miresmaeli was sentenced to ten years in prison last month after being charged with insulting the government and judicial officials, the “Holy imams of Shia” and publishing lies to disturb public opinion, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

Hossein Miresmaeli works for Iran economic newspaper Jahan Sanaat but was jailed over two tweets sent in April and July.

The first tweet allegedly mocked Shia Imam Reza, who is buried in Mashhad city, and questioned why the government does not allow music concerts in the city.

Hossein Miresmaeli deleted his tweet and apologised, saying it was not meant to offend, but was arrested on 4 April after the judiciary claimed it was an “insult to Shia Imam”, the IFJ said.

He served one month in jail before being arrested.

On 12 July the journalist was again arrested over a tweet, which this time called on people to send supplies and food to Gaza.

On 20 August he was sentenced to ten years in prison, two years of deprivation activity in the media and cyberspace, a two year ban from leaving the country and a cash penalty.

His lawyer said he would appeal the sentence, according to the IFJ.

The campaign group last week condemned the sentence and released a call for Hossein Miresmaeli’s release in support of the Association of Iranian Journalists.

Anthony Bellanger, general secretary at IFJ, said: “The Iranian authorities must stop their campaign of harassment and intimidation against the media.

“Iranian journalists must have the right to express their critical views without fearing for their safety or freedom.”

The National Union of Journalists supported the IFJ’s campaign, saying in a statement: “The NUJ continues to campaign in support of Iranian journalists who are persecuted by the Iranian authorities.”

The union added: “NUJ members working in London continue to face targeting, harassment and persecution.”

Last month, the BBC, NUJ and IFJ jointly condemned “thinly-veiled threats” made to the lives of Persian Service journalists through a judiciary-linked news agency in Iran.

Fran Unsworth, director of BBC News, said at the time: “We call once again for all Iranian harassment against BBC Persian staff and their families in Iran to end immediately.

“This is an issue of press freedom, and of the rights of all journalists around the world to operate without fear violence or persecution.”

Iran is currently ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

Picture: Amir Hossein Miresmaeili

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