A CRNI board member has been sentenced in absentia to four years in prison by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court.
— Nik Kowsar (@nikahang) March 5, 2017
Iranian cartoonist Nik Kowsar has lived in exile since 2003 when he fled the country after receiving a death threat. Over the weekend he learned he’s been sentenced to four years in prison for “Insulting Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei and for causing unrest in the minds of the public by spreading untruthful material.”
According to the detail of the court’s ruling, which is unclear, the cartoonist and activist has two months to appeal the verdict.
Kowsar received the news on Sunday afternoon through an Iranian opposition website. The court also sentenced Googoosh, the pop music diva who left Iran in the 1990s and has pursued a career outside her homeland ever since, to sixteen years in prison.
This latest development is an echo of the events that first brought Kowsar to the wider world’s attention. He was arrested in February 2000 and spent six days in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison after mocking a powerful pro-violence Islamist Ayatollah and was charged with undermining national security and insulting said Ayatollah. Later other charges, such as spreading untruthful material causing public unrest and making fun of religious scripture were added.
As a result he was the recipient of our Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award in 2001. After leaving Iran he joined the board of our organisation and has worked tirelessly to assist those who find themselves in the same distressing circumstances he and his family faced, or worse.
Unbowed, Kowsar is in typically combative mode in his response, telling CRNI:
“I feel insulted by such a small verdict! I have asked a lawyer in Tehran to sue the judge on my behalf for insulting me! Only four years for all the many cartoons I’ve drawn of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader? This is humiliating!”
“The whole thing is absurd and I find it very funny; I’ve been out of the country for almost fourteen years (possibly the age of the Islamist judge’s wife when they tied the knot) and now reside in Washington DC, far away from the judge and his court, and yet he invites me to appeal the verdict by going to his office.”
“I plan to revoke my Iranian citizenship until the day this Islamic State type of regime is no longer in charge. My soul is Iranian. My heart is Iranian, and that’s good enough for me.”