The defendants have not been named. But Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran prosecutor-general, said on Sunday that the man and woman had been sentenced because they established “a new cult.”
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Two reformist Iranian journalists have also been arrested in recent days. Hengameh Shahidi, who is also a human-rights activist, was arrested on Thursday. Ms Shahidi had previously spent two years in prison for protesting against alleged fraud in the 2009 presidential elections. Ehsan Mazandarani was arrested on Sunday. He had been released from prison earlier this year after being in jailed in November 2015 on charges of acting against national security. Pro-reform politicians have speculated that the journalists’ arrests are linked to May’s presidential election, when Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s centrist leader, will seek re-election. Hardliners in Iran commonly resort to politically motivated arrests to discourage reformists before the polls, they say. A handwritten letter by Ms Shahidi was released on social media on Sunday in which she claimed she had received warning of her imminent arrest. “I see no reason for my arrest . . . unless it is a pre-election plan for broad arrests of political activists and journalists,” she wrote. This article has been amended after it incorrectly stated that the couple sentenced to death included a US-Iranian dual national. The article also incorrectly said the couple ran a leading art gallery in Tehran. The two Iranians who were sentenced to death have not been identified. We apologise for the error. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.