Iran: Reuters chief convicted in 'ninja' dispute

Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A special media court found the Tehran bureau chief of the Thomson Reuters news agency guilty Sunday of "spreading lies" against the Islamic system for a video story that briefly included a posted description of women training as martial arts killers.

The state-owned news website YJC.ir quotes Ali Akbar Kasaeian, spokesman for the court panel, as saying Iranian national Parisa Hafezi was convicted of propaganda-related offenses for a February video that initially carried a headline saying the women were training as ninja "assassins." Iran's state Press TV also reported the court decision.

The Reuters headline was corrected, but it led to the suspension of the Reuters bureau in Tehran in March. Most of the Reuters staff shifted to Dubai, but Hafezi was not allowed to leave Iran.

Barb Burg, a spokeswoman for Reuters, said: "We understand that the jury has stated its view and we now await the court's ruling. We do not intend to comment further until a decision is issued."

A sentence by the court is expected within a week. The media court rarely deals with international news outlets, but often issues rulings against domestic media for various violations with punishments including fines, closure or jail sentences.

Last week, the moderate newspaper Shargh was ordered shut over a caricature that hardliners have interpreted as insulting to war veterans. In the past, Iranian authorities have revoked credentials of staff of foreign media or expelled foreign staff over reporting deemed objectionable, such as interviews with opposition figures.

After the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's powerful Revolutionary Court dealt with some high-profile press cases, including Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari of Newsweek, who was freed on $300,000 bail in October 2009 after nearly four months detention.

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