An Iranian state-controlled news site says a journalist has been sentenced to seven years in prison for trying to cover anti-government protests by minority Gonabadi Dervishes in Tehran earlier this year.
In an article posted Thursday, the Ensaf news site said its correspondent learned that detained Iranian journalist Sadegh Qaisari recently informed his family of the punishments imposed on him by a judge in relation to his coverage of the protests. Ensaf said Qaisari told family members that in addition to a seven-year prison term, the judge ordered him to receive 74 lashes and banned him from media activities and leaving the country for two years.
Ensaf also said Qaisari had been unable to choose his own defense lawyer. But its report did not detail the charges against Qaisari or explain how it obtained the information about his contacts with family members.
Iranian rights activists have said police detained Qaisari when he went to the scene of Dervish anti-government protests that turned violent in Tehran on February 19 and 20. The activists said Qaisari is not Dervish and was reporting on the protests as part of his job.
Prominent Iranian rights group HRANA, which uses contacts inside Iran, posted a report about Qaisari on Friday, quoting Ensaf as saying he had been sentenced to seven years in prison. HRANA also quoted its own source, whom it described as familiar with Qaisari’s situation, as saying the journalist has told family members that he needs medical treatment after having been struck on the head during his arrest. HRANA’s source said Qaisari has been suffering from nighttime panic attacks while in detention at the Great Tehran Penitentiary south of the capital.
The Dervish protesters involved in February’s unrest had been demanding the release of arrested members of their community and the removal of security checkpoints around the house of their 90-year-old leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. The protests escalated into clashes between police and the Dervishes, with five security personnel killed and authorities arresting more than 300 people.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.