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Iranian poet released on bail before appeal hearing
January 10, 2016 / 8:20 AM / 2 years ago

Iranian poet released on bail before appeal hearing

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian poet detained on Friday on arrival back in Tehran has been released on bail after being informed she had been convicted and sentenced in absentia on charges related to her cultural activities, a relative told Reuters on Sunday.

Hila Sedighi was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport as she returned from the United Arab Emirates, where she has been living with her husband for the past three years.

Her arrest was the latest in a series of arrests of artists, journalists and U.S. citizens as part of a crackdown on what authorities have called Western “infiltration”.

The clampdown follows a nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers in July, which hardliners fear may open Iranian society to what they see as corrupting Western influences.

The relative, who asked not to be identified, said Hila visited Iran regularly and was shocked to hear she had been sentenced in absentia. She has lodged an appeal against the conviction. Iranian officials have not commented on Sedighi’s case. She was sentenced by a court dealing with media and cultural issues, the relative said. Sedighi’s passport was confiscated on her arrival.

Sedighi was awarded the Hellman/Hammett prize for free expression by Human Rights Watch in 2012. Another Iranian recipient of that prize, journalist Isa Saharkhiz, was arrested in November.

Dozens of journalists, activists and artists have been arrested on charges such as publishing “propaganda” since October in an apparent crackdown on free expression and dissent ahead of next month’s election of a parliament and an assembly that will choose the Supreme Leader’s successor.

Hila Sedighi backed a reformist candidate in 2009’s disputed presidential election and one of her poems was used as a campaign slogan by Mirhossein Mousavi, who is now under house arrest.

After hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner of the election, demonstrators took to the streets claiming the election was fraudulent. Sedighi recited poetry at the protests.

She was interrogated by the Intelligence Ministry a few times. In 2011 a Revolutionary Court convicted Sedighi to four months in prison, although the sentence was suspended for five years.

In a note published on her Facebook page on Sunday, Sedighi complained about the way she has been “treated and transferred in a cage like criminals” and that she had spent one night “in Shapour detention center where dangerous prisoners are being held”.

She wrote she had been put in a small cell next to eight prisoners “who were showing the most shameless behavior”.

Hila Sedighi’s Facebook page has more than 300,000 followers.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Eric Meijer and Digby Lidstone

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