The United States has condemned the decision by a court in Tehran to sentence an Iranian American journalist to a year in prison. Parnaz Azima was convicted in absentia of the so-called crime of “spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic.”
Ms. Azima is a journalist who works for Radio Farda, the U.S. supported Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She was one of four Iranian Americans prevented from leaving Iran last year, falsely charged with crimes against national security. All were subsequently released.
Ms. Azima went to Iran in January 2007 to care for her sick, elderly mother. Upon her arrival, her passport was confiscated, and she could not leave the country for almost eight months. She was subjected to interrogations and was told to stop writing about human rights and the social and political situation inside Iran. Ms. Azima was permitted to leave Iran in September, after posting the deed to her mother’s house to cover the extremely high bail set by the court.
In a written statement, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey called Ms. Azima’s conviction “baseless.” He also said that the Iranian government’s action, which forces Ms. Azima to choose between returning to Iran to serve a prison term or forfeiting the deed to her mother’s house in Tehran, is “a gross miscarriage of justice.” Mr. Casey said that Ms. Azima’s sentencing is part of the Iranian regime’s continuing crackdown on independent media.
In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Ms. Azima spoke about the plight of Iran’s imprisoned independent journalists:
“Now we have more than ten journalists in prisons. Some of them are in very bad situations. Some of them need even medical help, but they are forbidden . . . .So I think this is a responsibility of the journalists outside of Iran -- both Iranian and the international community of journalists -- to defend them and to disclose [to] the international community what’s happening in Iran.”
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Casey called on the Iranian regime “to drop the charges against Ms. Azima and to adhere to its international obligations and commitments by ending its abusive treatment of journalists, and respecting freedom of the press.”