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Iran: Instagram couple sentenced in absentia to prison and lashes 

Iranian social media influences, Ahmad Moin-Shirazi and his wife Shabnam Shahrokhi, 24 February 2020 [Shabnam Shahrokhi/Instagram]
Iranian social media influences, Ahmad Moin-Shirazi and his wife Shabnam Shahrokhi, 24 February 2020 [Shabnam Shahrokhi/Instagram]

An Iranian couple known as social media influencers have been sentenced in absentia to a combined 16 years in prison and 74 lashes by the country's Revolutionary Court system. Ahmad Moin-Shirazi and his wife Shabnam Shahrokhi were given the sentence for "propaganda against the regime", posting "obscene and vulgar" content and "spreading moral corruption", according to an Instagram post by Moin-Shirazi a week ago.

With over half a million followers on Instagram, Moin-Shirazi is an entrepreneur and former kickboxing champion. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, while Shahrokhi was sentenced to seven years, 74 lashes and three months of unpaid labour.

READ: Iran accused of torturing, drowning Afghan migrants

The couple realised that they were being targeted by the Revolutionary Court some time ago, with the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence summoning them on several occasions and interrogating them for hours at a time. During these meetings, interrogators reportedly told Moin-Shirazi to stop uploading posts and pictures critical of Iran's domestic policies as well as pictures of his wife without a headscarf on.

The social media couple then took their two children and fled the country, and are now in self-exile in neighbouring Turkey. They were informed of the court's sentence through their lawyer, who is going to try to appeal against the verdict.

READ: Iran minister urges release of political prisoners to stop spread of coronavirus

Iran's detention of political prisoners has long been criticised widely by the international community. Calls for their release have increased during the coronavirus crisis which has raised concerns about the health of all prisoners in the country. Two months ago, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Islamic Republic announced that he had called on Tehran to release all political prisoners, calling their continued detention "unfortunate and disturbing".

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