October 17, 2020
A journalist and activist says he has been sentenced to six months in prison for filming a wall outside the house of the Supreme Leader’s advisor.
Authorities handed down the sentence to Milad Goudarzi following a complaint from President Hassan Rouhani’s office, which objected to the filming. Goudarzi has stated that the sentence was punishment for filming outside the house, but the indictment lists his charge as “spreading lies,” which could be in connection with the journalist’s coverage of a story about the president, his brother and a failed property deal.
Goudarzi posted on Twitter that his trial for charges of “spreading lies” was held on August 17, 2020 in the Tehran Criminal Court. Goudarzi announced the verdict on Twitter on Tuesday, October 13, confirming that he was being punished for “filming the wall of the house of Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Supreme Leader of Iran.”
The footage in question was filmed in 2018, when Goudarzi went to the gated community near the Sa’ad Abad Palace in northern Tehran to investigate an alleged row between President Rouhani and the owners of a house that Rouhani and his brother, Hossein Fereydoun, wanted to buy. Goudarzi spoke to the owner of the house, who said he had agreed to sell it but had rejected the offer of 23 billion tomans (US770,000). In apparent retaliation, Fereydoun then ordered access to the house to be cut off, preventing the family from returning to their property. On his way to the house to cover the story, Goudarzi filmed outside Velayati’s residence.
“In the summer of 2018, we took our cameras and went inside the house and interviewed its owner,” Goudarzi tweeted. “He told us the story of how, on the personal order of Hossein Fereydoun, traffic was stopped.” He said the owner thought Rouhani and his family might have wanted to buy the house because Rouhani’s son had once visited it and wanted to live there. But there have also been some reports that the government would like to move cabinet meetings to the area, as well as indications that Rouhani and other officials have expressed an interest in other properties there.
The journalist says he then faced a complaint from the president’s office and was tried in Branch 1059 of the second criminal court of Tehran Province and “was sentenced to six months in prison for filming in a prohibited place.”
The activist said the verdict was issued before he was notified of the charges against him. “After the complaint from the presidential office in the Culture and Media Court, Branch 4 did not accept the charges,” he wrote. He did not receive a summons, he said, but was issued with a restraining order not to visit the area. “But the presidential office protested against the verdict and the case was sent to court.”
The activist, who has previously described himself as a pro-government journalist, says he now works as a television and online reporter for the media organization Avanet.