Eight social media activists in Iran have been sentenced to a total of 127 years in prison, after they criticised the country’s government on Facebook.
The eight people – whose identities have not been revealed - were administrators of unnamed Facebook pages.
An Iranian court found them guilty of using the pages to spread anti-government propaganda, attemp to undermine national security, and insult Iran’s leaders. It is unclear whether they were acting together.
It is understood that those convicted will appeal the ruling, having each been handed sentences between 11 and 21 years, Iran’s IRNA news agency reported according to Sky News. The terms were passed in April after the eight appeared in court several times.
Following a wave of protests against the re-election of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, the Iranian government banned websites including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter which it believed were instrumental in organising dissent.
However, it is possible to access forbidden areas of the internet by using proxy servers.
Since becoming President last year, Hassan Rouhani pledged to offer citizens greater freedom on social media. Both he and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have active Twitter accounts, but conservative factions of the government have sought to block reform.
In May, Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was ordered to appear in an Iranian court over concerns that Instagram and WhatsApp violate individual privacy. It is unlikely that Mr Zuckerberg will appear in court, as the US and Iran do not have an extradition treaty.