According to reports, the Supreme Court of Iran has confirmed the sentences of eight social media activists, who have been given a combined 133 years in prison for the ‘crime’ of criticizing the regime on Facebook. Initially, they had been charged with “colluding and gathering against national security, propaganda activities against the system, insulting sacred symbols, insulting the head of the government branches and insulting specific individuals.”
The activists were arrested from different cities including Tehran, Yazd, Kerman, Shiraz and Abadan. Whether they were acting together or belonged to different, isolated cases is yet to be confirmed. They include six men, Massoud Seyed Talebi, Fariborz Kardarfar, Amin Kararmipour, Amir Golestani, Massoud Ghasemjani, Mehdi Rayshahri, and two women, Roya Saberi-Nejad Nonbakht, and Nagmeh Shahsavandi Shirazi. They have all been given sentences ranging from 8 to 21 years in prison.
The regime’s Cyber Police arrested them in 2013, which is primarily responsible for monitoring cyber activities. Social media websites that allow people from across the world to communicate with each other and access information, such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, are banned in Iran. Interestingly, individuals in key political positions, such as Foreign Minister Javed Zarif and Hassan Rouhani, the have accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
The Iranian regime excessively practices censorship, in order to keep the populace from interacting amongst itself and particularly the rest of the world. Since the regime’s and the people’s aspirations are not the same, the former has to subjugate the latter to preserve power and enforce its version of religious law. Although cases involving persecution of individuals who dare to exercise their right of free speech invite criticism from around the world, the regime continues to jail people for crimes that would not exist in a democracy.