#Human Rights
UN, Ban ki-Moon, OHCHR, Navi Pillay, Ahmed Shaheed, EU, European Parliament, State Department, HRW

Tehran University professor and prominent Iranian analyst Sadegh Zibakalam has been given an 18-month prison sentence for questioning the usefulness of the country's nuclear program. The nature of the judgment leaves whether the analyst will serve his full sentence up to the discretion of the judge. The case is seen by many as a warning about the limits on criticism of the nuclear program.

On his Facebook page, Zibakalam, a political centrist, wrote, "Just as you know, after the Geneva agreement and the attacks on that agreement from 'the Concerned,' I wrote two open letters to [Kayhan editor] Hossein Shariatmadari and [parliamentarian and 9 Dey editor] Hamid Rasaei. And in defending the efforts of the administration in solving the nuclear issue, I presented this question to them: 'What benefit and outcome for the progress, growth and development of the country has the nuclear [program] had for the economy of the country?'"

The publications run by Shariatmadari, appointed to his position by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Rasaei have been extremely critical of the interim nuclear deal made between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany in November 2013. "The Concerned" is the name now used for hard-liners who have shown opposition to the nuclear deal. The term is styled after the "We're Concerned(Worried)" conference held to publicly express these figures' fears about Iran giving up its nuclear rights in the negotiations.

Shariatmadari responded to the open letter, saying that if Zibakalam really cared about the people of Iran, he would not defend the individuals involved $2.7 billion embezzlement case. Zibakalam then responded with another open letter, asking what the prime suspect in that case, Mehafard Amir Khosravi, had done to be sentenced to death. Zibakalam had referred to Khosravi as the "Bill Gates" or "Steve Jobs" of Iran and accused the judiciary of sentencing him to death to appease public opinion. Khosravai was executed in May.

According to Zibakalam, after he had presented his defense in court, he was sentenced for one year for asking, "What outcome has the nuclear program had?" and for saying that in the embezzlement case, the judiciary wanted to "satisfy public opinion rather than seek the truth." He was sentenced to six months in prison.

Zibakalam was officially convicted of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran, publishing lies to incite public opinion and insulting judges and officials from the judiciary. He wrote that he would appeal the decision.

WHEREAS: Professor Zibakalam has been sentenced to 18 months in prison solely for posting a comment on his Facebook page critical of the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear program;

AND WHEREAS: This, his sole "crime" is in fact the peaceful expression and dissemination of his political and social views as guaranteed under Articles 18 & 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Iran is a signatory) as well as Article 24 of the Iranian Constitution;

AND WHEREAS: This prison sentence, and all the charges used to convict Professor Zibakalam are thus ILLEGAL;

THEREFORE: We, the undersigned, demand that the international community bring all possible pressure to bear upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to honor its legally-binding human rights obligations by RESCINDING this ILLEGAL prison sentence and UNCONDITIONALLY dropping all charges against Professor Zibakalam.

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The Rescind 18-Month Prison Sentence for Iranian Professor Sadegh Zibakalam for Facebook Comment petition to UN, Ban ki-Moon, OHCHR, Navi Pillay, Ahmed Shaheed, EU, European Parliament, State Department, HRW was written by John S. Burke and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.