An Iranian court that met on 13 October to review the appeal for satirist Kioomars Marzban maintained their sentence from August 2019. Kioomars will have to serve 11 years for charges related to his satirical writing for organisations with ties to the American government.
Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 Thomas Hughes said:
“The Iranian state continues to repress free speech through extreme prison sentences for those exercising their right to creative expression, especially individuals who do so through international organisations. Kioomars’ work contributing creative writing to human rights organisations such as Freedom House, should not be criminalized as cooperation with “enemy governments” or “espionage”.
“ We are calling for Kioomars’ verdict to be overturned, and for him to be released immediately along with other writers, activists and foreigners and dual nationals currently imprisoned in Iran on similar national security charges. These extreme prison sentences are a severe violation of Iran’s human rights obligations, and must end.”
According to the Iranian media, Marzban wrote satire for programs belonging to Iranian diaspora media, including Radio Farda, the Persian division of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the London based satellite media network Manoto. He was also accused of cooperating on projects with the American human rights organisation Freedom House, which the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps called “a project of American intelligence to push the issue of human rights internationally through media organisations such as Voice of America (VOA), Radio Farda and Manoto, as part of the legs and arms of their psychological warfare”.
Iran does not maintain a law that bans Iranian citizens from writing for American websites, but people in Iran can be prosecuted for “collaborating” with the U.S. government by writing for websites that are funded by it.
In his defense, Marzban has argued that he didn’t know that a project he had written satirical content for had received funding from the U.S. government.
Marzban had been living in Malaysia since 2009 but was arrested in September 2018 after returning to Iran to visit his ill grandmother.
According to Marzban’s lawyer, Mohamad Aghasi, his sentence includes 11 years for “communication with America’s hostile government”, 7 years and 6 months for “insulting the sacred”, 3 years for “insulting the [supreme] leader”, 1 year and 6 months for “propaganda against the state”, 9 months for “insulting officials”, a 2 year travel ban from leaving Iran, and 2 years ban from using social networks or publishing in media. He will have to only carry out 11 years out of the total sentencing.