Iranian whistleblower jailed for false information

An Iranian whistleblower who published damaging revelations about the parliament speaker’s family in April has been sentenced to two years in prison for publishing false information, Iranian media reported on Wednesday.

In April, Vahid Ashtari revealed on Twitter that the family of conservative lecturer Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf had been stocking up on baby products overseas as millions of Iranians struggled to get by in the face of Western economic sanctions.

After photos emerged of Ghalibaf’s wife, daughter and son-in-law returning from Turkey with suitcases full of clothes for her unborn grandchild, the #LayetteGate hashtag went viral on social media.

Many users shared a video from 2017 in which Ghalibaf called for censorship of officials who buy overseas instead of supporting local products.

Ghalibaf reportedly replied that he had opposed his family’s trip, but that critics had “told stories about the purchases” in an attempt to discredit parliament.

Iranian media reported that Ashtari was sentenced to two years in prison for “publishing false information intended to harm the public”.

But judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi insisted that neither Ashtari’s latest conviction nor previous ones had anything to do with his claims about the speaker of parliament.

“The defendant has faced numerous similar lawsuits in court, most of which have resulted in injunctions,” the judiciary said in a previous statement in April.