Iran satirist to serve 11 years in jail for US cooperation

Keyomars Marzban
Updated 25 August 2019
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Iran satirist to serve 11 years in jail for US cooperation

  • Marzban had been facing charges of “assembly and collusion against national security, cooperation with a hostile state

TEHRAN: An Iranian court has sentenced writer and satirist Keyomars Marzban to 11 years in prison after convicting him of charges including cooperation with the US, state media reported.

The official IRNA news agency said Marzban had “collaborated” with Radio Farda and Manoto television — broadcasters that are based abroad and banned in Iran.

Marzban had been facing charges of “assembly and collusion against national security, cooperation with a hostile state, spreading propaganda against the system, and insulting sanctities and officials,” IRNA quoted his lawyer as saying.

The court cleared him of the first count of assembly and collusion but found him guilty of the other four charges, said the lawyer Mohammad Hossein Aghasi.

In line with Iranian law, he would have to serve only the longest of the sentences — 11 years behind bars for cooperating with a hostile state — if he loses an appeal.

“We will definitely appeal this verdict as we believe that there has been no connection between the client and American government,” said Aghasi.

“We also don’t accept (the charge of) insulting sanctities.”

IRNA said that according to posts on social media, Marzban had left Iran in 2009 and returned eight years later before being arrested in Aug. 26, 2018.

Iran has meanwhile blacklisted US-based think-tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its chief Mark Dubowitz on accusations of being behind “economic terrorism” against the Islamic republic.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had “added the so-called Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and its director to the sanctions list.”

The FDD and Dubowitz were blamed for “seriously and actively trying to harm the Iranian people’s security and vital interests,” according to the English-language statement posted on the ministry’s website.

They were accused of doing so through “fabricating and spreading lies, encouraging, providing consultations, lobbying, and launching a smear campaign” against Iran. As a result, they would be “subject to legal consequences,” it said.

The move would be “without prejudice to any further legal measures that the other administrative, judicial or security institutions and organizations may take” against them and their “collaborators and accomplices.”

The FDD describes itself as a Washington-based “non-partisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.”

The think-tank responded to Tehran’s move with a statement saying: “FDD considers its inclusion on any list put out by the regime as a badge of honor and looks forward to the day when Americans and others can visit a free and democratic Iran.”

It strongly opposed the 2015 deal that saw world powers lift sanctions against Iran in return for limits on its nuclear program.

Tensions between arch-foes Iran and the US have escalated since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord last year and began reimposing sanctions against the Islamic republic.


US official meets in Lebanon over anti-Hezbollah sanctions

Updated 59 min 28 sec ago

US official meets in Lebanon over anti-Hezbollah sanctions

  • Lebanon’s Central Bank chief Riad Salameh played down reports in local media that the US will impose further sanctions

BEIRUT: A senior United States Treasury official was visiting Beirut on Monday, where he’s explaining the motives behind recent US sanctions targeting Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s central bank governor said.
Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea met with the prime minister and the speaker of parliament, as well as officials from the Association of Banks in Lebanon and the central bank governor.
Hezbollah holds three cabinet seats, and along with its allies has more power than ever in the parliament and government. It is also among the most effective armed groups in the region, extending Iran’s influence to Israel’s doorstep. Domestically, the group’s power exceeds that of the Lebanese armed forces.
Lebanon’s Central Bank chief Riad Salameh played down reports in local media that the US will impose further sanctions on the country’s dollar-strapped banking system. He said Billingslea “is not coming here to squeeze Lebanon.”
A US embassy statement said Billingslea “will encourage Lebanon to take the necessary steps to maintain distance from Hezbollah and other malign actors attempting to destabilize Lebanon and its institutions.”
Last month, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Jammal Trust Bank and added it to its list of global terrorist organizations. The bank denied US charges about “knowingly facilitating banking activities” for Hezbollah militants.
The bank last week was forced to request self-liquidation and the move was accepted by the central bank governor.
The US has been imposing sanctions on Hezbollah for years, as Washington considers the group a terrorist organization. Such steps have increased in recent months as the Trump administration is using “maximum pressure” against Iran, Hezbollah’s main backer.
In July, the Treasury Department targeted a Hezbollah security official and two members of Lebanon’s parliament, saying they are suspected of using their positions to further the aims of the militant group and “bolster Iran’s malign activities.” It was the first time Washington targeted Hezbollah legislators.
Hezbollah, whose Arabic name translates as “Party of God,” was established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard months after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.