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Espionage and counter-revolutionary activities

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An Iranian blogger accused of spying and counter-revolutionary activities has been jailed for 14 years. Newspaper editor Arash Sigarchi - whose blog criticised an Iranian crackdown on similar websites which has resulted in around 20 arrests - was himself cuffed in January on charges of "espionage, insulting the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, and current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei", the BBC reports.

The sentence immediately provoked protests from human rights organisation Reporters Without Borders, which called for Sigarchi's release. A spokesman said: "The authorities are trying to make an example of him. By handing down this harsh sentence against a weblogger, their aim is to dissuade journalists and internet-users from expressing themselves online or contacting foreign media."

The outcome of Sigarchi's trial does not bode well for other Iranian bloggers still in custody - including Motjaba Saminejad who also criticised the regime's clampdown. International pressure from groups such as the Committee to Protect Bloggers - which designated 22 February as "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day" - is unlikely to cut much ice with the revolutionary courts. Nonetheless, campaign spokesman Curt Hopkins noted: "The eyes of 8 million bloggers are going to be more focused on Iran since Sigarchi's sentence, not less. The mullahs won't be able to make a move without it being spread across the blogosphere." ®

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