Eight Iranian activists who oversee pages on Facebook -- which is banned in Iran -- were sentenced to a combined 127 years in jail after an Iranian court found they spread propaganda, tried to undermine national security and insulted Iranian leaders, Sky News reported Monday.
Neither the identities of the activists nor the Facebook pages that they administrated were disclosed. The eight activists received jail terms ranging from 11 years to 21 years, according to Sky News, which cited Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency. The activists are appealing the sentences.
While social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are banned in Iran, some Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Ordinary Iranians have also been able to access the sites despite the ban by using proxy servers. The Iranian government blamed Twitter for inciting street protests in 2009, when demonstrators voiced their displeasure at the re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s current president, has vowed to be more open to social media and freedom in general, but others in power at key Iranian institutions have blocked his reform proposals, according to Sky News.