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Court upholds 10 year sentence against 'one of Iran's best known journalists'

Narges Mohammadi was told she would serve 10 years for forming an 'illegal group' that sought to campaign against capital punishment
Narges Mohammadi, at the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran (AFP)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday condemned a decision by an Iranian appeals court to uphold a 10-year jail sentence against journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.

Mohammadi, 44, is one of Iran's best-known journalists and was awarded the City of Paris medal earlier this year for her work as a defender of women's rights. 

She was the spokesperson of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders and campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Iran.

Initially arrested in May 2015, the mother-of-two was sentenced to a total of 16 years in April, according to a statement from RSF. 

Under a law passed last year, she will only serve the sentence linked to the most important charge - in this case 10 years for "forming and managing an illegal group" which pressed for an end to capital punishment.

RSF said her lawyers received the news as her colleague, 2003 Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who founded the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, was meeting with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire in the French capital.

"I condemn this sentence imposed by the Iranian judicial system as Narges's only crime is to be a human rights defender in a country that flouts these rights," Ebadi told RSF.

The United States said on Friday it was "deeply troubled" by the sentence against Mohammadi.

"No one should be jailed for peaceful, civic activism," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a news briefing, noting reports indicated Mohammadi's health was "rapidly deteriorating while in prison" and she had been barred from communicating with her two young children.

"Given these circumstances, the imposition of this prison sentence is particularly harsh and unjustified and we call on the government of Iran to provide Mohammadi with adequate medical care and to release her on humanitarian grounds," Toner said.

Amnesty International rights group described the sentence as "shameful."

“This verdict is yet another cruel and devastating blow to human rights in Iran, which demonstrates the authorities’ utter contempt for justice. Narges Mohammadi is a prominent advocate of human rights and a prisoner of conscience,” Philip Luther, Amnesty’s research and advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

Mohammadi went on hunger strike in June after being denied phone contact with her children, who live with their father in France. The authorities relented after 20 days of the hunger strike. 

There has yet to be any official confirmation of the appeal court verdict from within Iran. 

Iran was this year ranked 169th out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom index.