Iranian academic and outspoken political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam has been handed a prison sentence. Zibakalam, who is a well-known supporter of reform, stated March 13 that he has been sentenced to 18 months in jail and has also been banned for two years from political and social activities.
Elaborating on the Tehran Revolutionary Court’s sentence, Zibakalam added in a video posted on his Facebook page that he has been banned from giving public speeches, writing articles, giving interviews and being active in cyberspace.
The prominent pundit also explained the charges he faced in court. “My charge is spreading propaganda against the establishment and dissemination of lies against the establishment. … This is because of my interview with Deutsche Welle radio about the December protests in the country,” Zibakalam said.
He continued, “The court found me guilty, and I now have 20 days to object to the issued sentence.”
He added, “I haven’t hired a lawyer for any of my trials, as I believe that the basis of my charges isn't legal and the charges are politically motivated. Therefore, a lawyer can’t help me be exonerated.”
Zibakalam is a professor of political science at the University of Tehran. He was recently dismissed from Islamic Azad University (IAU), which is now controlled by hard-liners following the death of moderate Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani last year. The dismissal from IAU was, according to Zibakalam, a political payoff.
This is not the first time that the judiciary has acted against Zibakalam. In 2014, he faced 18 months of imprisonment for criticizing the Islamic Republic’s policies on its nuclear program. However, when he appealed his sentence it was overturned and converted to a $1,328 fine.
In other news, Minister of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei and Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi have both survived impeachment votes in parliament.
Opponents of Rabiei were determined to impeach him and gave heated speeches against him in the open session of parliament on March 13. In a controversial remark, Fereydoun Hassanvand, a conservative parliament member and the chairman of the energy commission, addressed Rabiei, saying that he had come to parliament before and told parliament members that he was a spy of the establishment in the presidential campaign of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. Rabiei denied this.
Of note, Rabiei was a senior member of Mousavi’s campaign in 2009. Following the disputed presidential election that year, Mousavi and the other Reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, stated that the ballot was rigged. Their protests led to their eventual house arrests.
During the impeachment session, Gholam-Reza Tajgardoun, a senior member of the Reformist Hope faction in parliament, accused Rabiei of giving money to a number of newspapers to publish false reports about his opponents in parliament.
At the end of parliament’s session, 124 parliament members voted in favor of Rabiei’s impeachment, 126 against and 2 in abstention.
In response to parliament’s decision about Rabiei, the Iranian president’s cultural adviser, Hesamodin Ashna, wrote on his Telegram channel March 13, “Despite giving a vote of confidence to the minister, the parliament gave a firm message to the government to be alarmed that [parliament’s] trust is neither permanent nor absolute.”
Akhoundi faced impeachment over a number of recent disasters, including a plane crash in southwestern Iran last month that left all 66 people on board dead. Akhoundi survived the impeachment vote with 152 opposed, 92 in favor and 2 abstentions.
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