Appeals Court Finalizes Sentences for 11 January Protest co-Defendants

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – In connection to the January protests, Branch 1 of Markazi Province Appeals Court confirmed the imprisonment-and-lashings sentence of four citizens, suspending similar sentences for seven co-defendants on the same case. The defendants were identified as Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri, Abbas Safari, Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou, Mohammad Torabi, and Kian Sadeghi.

The Prosecutor’s Office settled on a charge of “disrupting the public peace through participation in an illegal gathering,” which according to HRANA reports incurred one year of imprisonment and 74 lashings per defendant in Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102, presided by Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi.

Their sentence allows for detention time already served to be counted towards their pending prison terms, a particular boon to Najafi, Bagheri, Safari, and Sadeghi who received two additional years of prison time for “publishing lies with intent to disrupt the public mind.” Bagheri’s prison term was further compounded by another six months for “insulting a police chief in cyberspace.”

Among the accused is attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi, who said in a note, “Branch 1 of Markazi Province has upheld the initial verdict. The maximum punishment of three years in prison and 74 lashings […] remains unchanged for me and Messrs. Bagheri and Safari, while the sentences for the rest of those convicted, including my six clients, were suspended over five years.”

Discovery into these protestors’ case files began March 13, 2018, in Branch One of Arak Investigation Court, by which point all 11 had already been interrogated by the Intelligence Office. Ten of the eleven were present during discovery, where an investigator deliberated on charges from disrupting the peace to gathering and conspiring. Though all of the accused were detained amid the protest site in Shazand city where all of them are residents, authorities inexplicably forwarded their case to the judicial office of Arak. All denied the charges brought against them.

Independent of the January protests case file, Najafi, Bagheri, Safari, Ajilou, and Bakhshi all have individual cases pending in the Revolutionary Court of Arak.

After several delays due to the absence of a judge, Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102 tried Najafi June 9, 2018, in for his inquiries into the death of civilian Vahid Heydari, who passed away while in custody of Arak authorities amid the January protests. While Iranian judicial authorities had claimed Heydari was a drug dealer who committed suicide in Police Detention Center No. 12, Najafi’s field research concluded that Heydari was a peddler with no criminal record, whose autopsy report was suspicious for blunt-force trauma. When Najafi was arrested for his investigations, Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi spoke out in his defense.

A large number of participants in recent protests, referred to as the January protests, were detained and interrogated across the country. The protests resulted in the death of 25 individuals and the detention of around five thousand. Ministry of the Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli previously stated that public demonstrations “turned violent” in 40 of the 100 cities where the January protests broke out.

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