Friday, 2 July 2010
The lawyer defending the Iranian journalist, Jila Baniyaghoob, has lodged an appeal against the sentence of one year in prison and a 30-year ban from journalism imposed on Ms Baniyaghoob by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran last month.
‘The sentence is not all fair on my client and I have asked for her acquittal,’ said Ms Baniyaghoob’s lawyer, Farideh Gheyrat, who placed the appeal with the Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 26 on 27 June.
‘Ms Baniyaghoob has been working as a journalist,’ said Mr Gheyrat, ‘and had been arrested twice already because of her professional work. She was tried – once at Revolutionary Court Branch 15 and the second time at Court Branch 13 – and was found innocent on both occasions. I have stressed in my appeal case that there has been no change in my client’s professional attitude of behavior. Therefore, in view of the legal principle that a closed case cannot be reopened, and on the basis of the verdicts of innocence that have been issued already, I have asked for my client’s acquittal.’
Referring to a scholarship granted to Ms Baniyaghoob by a university in the West, which had been mentioned in the judge’s verdict as evidence of her guilt, Ms Gheyrat said: ‘Although studying abroad is not an offence, my client has never travelled abroad to study.’
Ms Gheyrat then commented on another part of Judge Pir-Abassi’s verdict against her client, saying: ‘Travelling to the West has also been cited as evidence against my client. But, firstly, not only is travelling abroad not an offence, but it is a feature of journalism, a profession that must remain in touch with the outside world. Although it is not illegal to travel to the West and write reports about it, most of my client’s visits have not been to western countries, but to countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. During these visits she has written many reports on the miseries of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of American invasions and her reports have been published in various newspapers. Jila Baniyaghoob is the first Iranian journalist to report on the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila [in Beirut, Lebanon]. These reports were published in the dailies Nowrouz and Yas-e Now.’
On another charge against Ms Baniyaghoob, namely collecting signatures for the ‘One Million Signatures Campaign’ [to bring about equal rights for women in Iran], Ms Gheyrat said: ‘Firstly, I have drawn the Court’s attention to the fact that my client has never been tried because of the ‘One Million Signatures Campaign’ and has never been presented with such a charge at any stage of the prosecution, especially at the magistrate court or the trial court. Nonetheless, I have submitted to the court in my appeal case that under the laws of the Islamic Republic, collecting signatures is not an offence. Furthermore, three members of the ‘One Million Signatures Campaign’ have been tried and acquitted by the Revolutionary Court, based on the argument that collecting signatures is not an offence. These include Ms Jelveh Javaheri and Ms Parastou Allahyari.’
‘My client,’ said Ms Gheyrat, ‘has also been found guilty of writing for reformist newspapers which were subsequently closed down by courts. My client had written for these papers when they were being published with the government’s permission. Also, it is basically not possible to write for newspapers that have been closed down.’
Commenting on her client’s 30-year ban from the profession journalism, Ms Gheyrat said: ‘The laws of the Islamic Republic stipulate a five-year deprivation from social rights for a person found guilty of moharebeh [waging war against God], even someone who has been sentenced to having one of his/her limbs cut off. With this in mind, I would like to ask how they could impose a 30-year professional prohibition on my client. They have not even considered how my client whose only specialization is journalism could make a living.’
Ms Gheyrat said she hoped the Court of Appeal would consider her arguments and declare Ms Baniyaghoob innocent.
Translated by Hossein shahidi