Published On: Sun, Jun 1st, 2014

British woman jailed in Iran for posting anti-government Facebook message

A British woman who was arrested in Iran after posting derogatory comments about the country’s government on Facebook has reportedly been sentenced to 20 years in jail.

The case of Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, 47, from Stockport, was highlighted by The Independent last month after it emerged that she had been arrested and charged with “insulting Islamic sanctities” while visiting family. At the time, her husband said he feared she may be executed.

According to the Iranian opposition website Kaleme, Mrs Nobahkt was among eight people jailed for a total of 123 years for a variety of offences including blasphemy, propaganda against the ruling system, spreading lies and insulting the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mrs Nobahkt and a man called Amir Golestani each received 20 years in jail, Kaleme reported, while six others were sentenced to between seven and 19 years. They were named as Masoud Ghasemkhani, Fariborz Kardarfar, Seyed Masoud Seyed Talebi, Amin Akramipour, Mehdi Reyshahri and Naghmeh Shahisavandi Shirazi.

However, last night sources close to Mrs Nobakht’s family said that due to the multiple sentencing, they were unsure exactly how long she had been told she would spend in jail. They added that 20 years may have been an “estimate” by the court, which had so far refused to confirm it in writing, but that they were urgently seeking clarification.

Mrs Nobakht was in Iran in October last year when she was arrested by police as she arrived by plane in the south western city of Shiraz, according to an account given by her husband, Daryoush Taghipoor. The couple have lived in the Stockport suburb of Heald Green for the past six years and have both been granted dual British-Iranian nationality.

According to a copy of her charge sheet seen by The Independent, Mrs Nobakht was accused of “gathering and participation with intent to commit crime against national security” and “insulting Islamic sanctities”.

Britain currently has no embassy in Iran, making attempts to negotiate Mrs Nobakht’s release difficult. The Government is apparently using the Swedish embassy as a go-between so it can discuss the case with the authorities.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are aware that a British national has received a custodial sentence in Iran. We are seeking to establish the full facts and are following up the case with the Iranian authorities.”

Mr Taghipoor has previously claimed that his wife’s arrest was over comments she had made on a Facebook group about the government being “too Islamic”, and that she had only been charged after a confession was extracted from her “under duress”.

Ahead of her trial she was detained at Evin prison in Tehran, which is notorious both for its harsh conditions and for housing political prisoners. Mr Taghipoor has now returned to the UK and is worried about returning to Iran in case he is also arrested.

Iran has recently attracted criticism for its refusal to tolerate internet freedom. Last week six young Iranians were arrested after they posted a video on the internet of their version of “Happy”, the song by US singer Pharrell Williams.

Although popular social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are officially banned, some Iranians have found ways to access them through proxy servers.