Iran jails former activist on security propaganda charges

A former Iranian student leader and reformist turned journalist has been jailed for six years for undermining national security and spreading propaganda, less than 12 months after returning home.

The sentence handed down to Serajeddine Mirdamadi is the latest in a series of convictions of academics, activists and reporters for crimes deemed to be undermining the Islamic republic.

Mirdamadi "was sentenced to five years for acts against national security and one year for spreading propaganda against the regime," Ghiti Pourfazel, his lawyer, told official IRNA news agency.

"We will definitely appeal," she added.

IRNA did not disclose any details of specific acts that led to the charges and conviction.

Mirdamadi was active in student politics and worked in the interior ministry during the first term (1997-2001) of reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

He later left Iran and only returned from France last year after the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who is seen as a moderate and who won power having pledged to push for reform.

While abroad, Mirdamadi wrote political commentaries for Amsterdam-based Radio Zamaneh and gave interviews to the BBC's Persian service.

His sentencing comes two days after reports that pro-reform activist Hashem Aghajari, a university professor, was jailed for one year for spreading anti-regime propaganda.

Aghajari had been convicted of apostasy and given a death sentence in 2003 for declaring that Muslims were not "monkeys" who should "blindly follow" their religious leaders.

That sentence was commuted to five years imprisonment in 2004, but he was eventually cleared of all charges the following year.

Other reform-minded activists have been jailed in recent months in Iran for crimes against national security, raising concern about a push from the judiciary to clamp down on dissent.

Rouhani took office last August and has since led moves to re-engage with the West, principally by seeking a deal with world powers over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme.

However, his moves toward detente have faced heavy opposition from hardline conservatives and critics in the country's judiciary.

As well as political activists, several journalists have recently been convicted or placed in custody.

The Washington Post's Iran reporter Jason Rezaian, his wife Yeganeh Saleh, also a journalist, and a photographer for the US newspaper were detained on July 22 and placed under investigation.

Two weeks later little is known about the circumstances of their arrests and no details have been released about what they are accused of, though Iran confirmed that a probe is under way.

A man arrested at the same time as Rezaian, Saleh and the photographer has since been released on bail.