Iran court upholds death sentence on dissident

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TEHRAN, Nov 9 (Reuters) Iran's Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence on a Kurdish dissident journalist convicted of charges including spying, his lawyer said today.

A Revolutionary Court in the western Kurdish city of Marivan sentenced Adnan Hassanpour to death in July.

A colleague, Abdolvahed 'Hiva' Botimar, was sentenced to death at the same time but the Supreme Court referred his case to another court.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based media watchdog, has called the death sentences against Hassanpour and Botimar ''outrageous and shameful''.

''The court has upheld Hassanpour's sentence but has referred Botimar's sentence to a lower court for further reinvestigation,'' lawyer Saleh Nikbakht told Reuters.

Under Iranian law, all execution orders must be upheld by Iran's Supreme Court.

The judiciary said in July the pair were sentenced to death for mounting ''armed struggle against the system'', which is among crimes that are considered ''Moharebeh'', an Islamic term meaning ''enmity with God'' -- a capital crime.

''Hassanpour's charges are various, including giving classified military information to incompetent figures, having contact with foreigners and espionage,'' Nikbakht said.

The lawyer said the sentence was ''unfair'' and he would appeal on behalf of his client.

The two Kurdish journalists wrote for a Kurdish magazine called Aso (Horizons) before it was banned in August 2005, but Iran's judiciary has said their charges were not related to their profession.

RSF said the death sentences ''show how little Iran is bothered by international humanitarian law. They also show how determined it is to use every possible means to silence the most outspoken journalists and human rights activists''.

Iran's rights record is criticised by the West and rights groups often report that Tehran imprisons political dissidents without due legal process.

Rights groups and Western diplomats say Iranian authorities have increased pressure on dissidents, intellectuals and critical journalists, adding this may in part be a response to mounting international pressure over its atomic programme.

The West accuses Iran of covertly trying to build nuclear arms. Iran denies the charge, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Reuters SBA VP0310

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