Yashar Soltani, the managing editor of Memari News, has been sentenced to five years in prison and banned from leaving the country, joining political parties, posting on social media and giving interviews to the press for two years.
Judge Salavati of the 15th Branch of the Revolutionary Court handed down the sentence.
Soltani was first arrested in September 2016, and charged with exposing classified information about properties owned by Tehran municipality.
“My client faced four charges,” his defense attorney, Sadeq Kashani, told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “He was sentenced to two years for dissemination of false information, one year for defaming Omran Tak Lar Company, and two more years for making threats against the company. The last charge is exposing classified information. The case is still open and we are awaiting separate sentencing.”
According to the court order, Soltani’s previous time under arrest will be deducted from this sentence. He has 20 days to appeal.
In September 2016, Memari News published a letter from the General Inspection Office of Iran that revealed huge levels of corruption among Tehran’s municipal government and the city council officials. The letter explicitly accused Tehran municipality with bribery, embezzlement, and fraud amounting to US$1,100 million.
After the letter was published, Tehran’s Mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and city senior official Mehdi Chamran sued Soltani, although both of them denied they had filed the lawsuit against the journalist later on.
Following Soltani’s first arrest, he received huge public support for his work, and even some conservative figures voiced criticism over his arrest. In response to the public outcry, Tehran's prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told a press conference that in 45 cases, there was evidence that municipal officials had acted inappropriately. Ghalibaf claims that he had no knowledge of those illegal activities.
Soltani claimed he had no ill intention by publishing the letter and that his only wish was to make it more difficult and costlier for corrupt officials to continue their illegal practices.
Tehran’s prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, however, stated that his office’s investigation showed that “Mr. Soltani had his own political affiliations and published the letter to benefit a specific group since the letter was published close to the city council election. During the investigation, Mr. Soltani himself confessed that there were better ways available to him to publish the information without committing a crime or damaging anyone’s name.”
Soltani was released on bail two months later. But now, in January 2019, he once again faces arrest.