November 17, 2015 / 1:41 PM / 2 years ago

Iran arrests cartoonist as crackdown on free expression goes on

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian authorities have arrested a cartoonist and sent him to prison to complete a suspended jail sentence, his lawyer said on Tuesday, joining a growing list of journalists, artists and activists detained on security charges.

Hadi Heidari, a cartoonist at the Shahrvand newspaper, was arrested on Monday and sent to Tehran's Evin prison, his lawyer told Reuters in a telephone interview from Tehran.

"He was convicted two years ago for his cartoons and was sentenced to one year in jail. The authorities had a different interpretation of his cartoons than he had," the lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said. Heidari had served about a month of the original sentence, Nikbakht said.

The Tasnim news agency, which is close to the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said Heidari had telephoned his family from prison and told them his arrest stemmed from the original conviction.

It was not immediately clear why Heidari had been re-arrested. Hardliners have accused other recently arrested journalists of being part of an "infiltration network" linked to hostile foreign powers.

The IRGC has rounded up artists, journalists and U.S. citizens as part of the crackdown on "infiltration". Last week, it arrested the administrators of more than 20 groups on the mobile messaging app Telegram.

"I had lunch with him a few days ago and he was expecting to be arrested alongside other journalists," Nikbakht said.

Heidari recently published cartoons showing solidarity with Beirut and Paris after those cities were attacked by Islamic State last week, but an acquaintance who requested anonymity said his arrest was not linked to this. Tehran has strongly condemned the attacks.

Reporting by Sam Wilkin and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

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