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Iran Arrests Cartoonist as Crackdown on Free Expression Continues

This week, Iran arrested cartoonist Hadi Heidari and sent him to Evin – the Islamic Republic’s most notorious prison – to complete a suspended jail sentence stemming from a conviction he had received two years ago. Heidari’s arrest arrives on the heels of an aggressive crackdown by Iran’s hardliners on journalists, artists, and U.S. citizens.

“He was convicted two years ago for his cartoons and was sentenced to one year in jail,” his attorney Saleh Nikbakht said, according to Al Arabiya News. “The authorities had a different interpretation of his cartoons than he had,” Nikbakht added, noting that Heidari had served approximately one month of the original sentence. Heidari is a cartoonist with Iran’s Shahrvand newspaper. Nikbakht reportedly said Heidari was expecting his arrest during a lunch meeting the men had last week.

Heidari recently published one of the most iconic cartoon images showing solidarity with Beirut and Paris after the deadly attacks the Islamic State carried out in those cities, killing nearly 200 innocent civilians. However, Al Arabiya notes that an acquaintance who requested anonymity said his arrest was not linked to this. Tehran also condemned the attacks, with President Rouhani labeling them as “crimes against humanity.”

While it remains unclear why authorities would re-arrest him, it is believed Heidari’s arrest could stem from growing pressure from the regime’s military wing, the IRGC. Iran’s hardliners have accused other recently arrested journalists, artists, and U.S. citizens of being part of an “infiltration network” linked to “hostile Western cultures,” charging many of them with espionage, among other things.

Just last week, an Iranian judge who is well-known for handing down harsh sentences for journalists sentenced Solmaz Ikdar, 33, to three years in prison for allegedly insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and promulgating propaganda against the state.

Judge Moghiseh, who handed down Ikdar’s sentence, is one of six judges notorious for being complicit in violating international treaties to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory. Some of these violations include holding trials behind closed doors, which last mere minutes, intimidating defendants, depriving prisoners of access to lawyers, and even going so far as refusing to disclose the date and time of the actual trial to the defendants’ attorneys.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.

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