Azerbaijani Activist Summoned in Khoy

Posted on: October 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Javad Ahmadi Yekanli, an Azerbaijani activist from the city of Khoy, was summoned by county security police on October 8th for reasons that have yet to be confirmed.

Yekanli was arrested along with a number of Azerbaijani activists for taking part in a July 6th annual gathering at Babak Fort. He was released on a bail of 200 million rials (approximately $4750 USD).

Authorities also apprehended Yekanli at a 12th-anniversary commemoration gathering at Golzaar cemetery in Naqade county for protesters who died in 2006. He was detained and beaten before being released on a billion rials (approximately $23,750 USD) bail.

He was also arrested in December of 2016 in his father’s house; on that occasion, authorities rifled through the house, confiscating his books and computer.

Agents of the Khoy Security Department regularly contact Yekanli and his family to warn them against resuming political activities.

Four Sentenced to Prison for Political Activism

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Morteza Nazari Sedhi, a political prisoner in Ward 4 of Evin Prison, has been sentenced to prison together along with his wife Zahra Zare Seraji.

The Revolutionary Court of Baharestan County in Tehran Province sentenced both Sedhi and Seraji with forming an illegal group, disseminating lies in cyberspace, and propaganda against the regime. Among the evidence cited against them was their forming of online political groups, recruitment of participants in the January protests, membership in monarchist groups via a social messaging app called Telegram, a close source told HRANA.

Sedhi was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison, two years of exile to Azna County in central Lorestan province, and a fine. Seraji got an eight-year sentence and a fine on the same convictions, while their co-defendants Ali Kabirmehr and Ali Bazazadeh were both sentenced to 13-year prison terms.

All of the defendants will be required to learn sections of the Quran as part of their sentence.

Nazari Sedhi and Seraji were in a bad physical and psychological condition as of their sentencing, the source added.

Seraji had been previously released on a bail of 2 billion rials (approximately $48,000 USD).

January Protestors: 8 Months in Prison for Alireza Moeinian

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Civil rights activist and Tabriz resident Alireza Moeinian, who was among those detained amid the January protests, has been sentenced to 8 months in prison by Judge Ahrari of Tabriz Revolutionary Court Branch 2.

Initially arrested January 1st and detained in Evin Prison’s Ward 209, Moeinian was able to go free at end of his initial interrogation sessions by providing a salary slip as a surety bond in place of cash bail, an informed source told HRANA.

Later, on April 23rd, 2018, Branch 19 of the Tabriz Prosecutors’ office summoned him to read him his charges: propaganda against the regime and participation in an illegal gathering. His bail was set at 1 billion rials (approximately $10,000 USD).

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.

Of the January protests, Ministry of the Interior Rahmani Fazli said, “A number of protests took place in 100 Iranian cities; in forty of those cities, the protests turned violent.”

Tabriz is located in northwestern Iran.

Court Convenes on Recent Charges Against Leila Mir-Ghaffari

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court convened today, October 6th to read civil activist Leila Mir-Ghaffari her most recent charges: insulting the supreme leader and rebelling against authorities. Her attorney Mohammad Hossein Aghasi was present at the session, which was presided by Judge Ahmadzadeh.

Aghasi told HRANA that Mir-Ghaffari’s new charges are in connection to an altercation she had with security guards in front of the Revolutionary Court. “Ms. Mir-Ghaffari explained herself in court [today]. I was asked to have her defense submitted to the court within a week.”

Mir-Ghaffari was detained just three days earlier for defending a group known as the Girls of Enghelab Street who famously demonstrated against mandatory veiling for women. Morality Court ordered her to pay a fine of 3,200,000 tomans [approximately $800 USD], and she was released on bail the next day.

On June 13, 2018, Mir-Ghaffari was among a group of civil rights activists summoned to appeals court to review their charges of 91 days’ imprisonment and 74 lashes apiece. Judge Farshid Dehghani presided over their preliminary trial on February 9, 2016 in Tehran Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 1060.

Mir-Ghaffari and 17 other civil activists were arrested November 2016 for staging a peaceful gathering across from Evin Prison. Authorities sent the women protestors to Gharchak Prison and the men to Evin. Charged with disrupting the public peace, they were eventually released on bail of 50,000,000 tomans [approximately $12,000 USD]. Her co-arrestees were Reza Mak’iyan (Malak), Hashem Zaynali, Simin Ayvazzadeh, Ehsan Khaybar, Abdulazim Aruji, Mohsen Haseli, Mohsen Shojaie, Azam Najafi, Parvin Soleymani, Sharmin Yamani, Sala Saie, Arshiya Rahmati, Mas’ud Hamidi, Ali Babaie, Ismaeil Husayni, Farideh Tusi, and Zahra Mudarreszadeh.

Impending Appeals Hearing on Habibi Case

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The Appellate Court of Tehran Province Branch 36 will convene October 25, 2018, to review the case of Mohammad Habibi, a teacher and union activist imprisoned since May 2018 for commemorating national teachers’ week.

Habibi’s lawyer Hossein Taj confirmed the news to HRANA. “We’re taking it as a good sign that they’ve assigned a date this soon,” he said. “We hope that the appeals judges consider our client’s upstanding character and the case for his defense, which would relieve, if only a little, the pain that’s plaguing the teaching community.”

On September 20th, HRANA’s English webpage announced that Habibi’s case had entered the appellate stage.

In direct violation of physician orders, Habibi has been denied medical attention since the beginning of his detention period. Taj said that Habibi has suffered from various health problems since being imprisoned, including a 22-pound weight loss, suspect kidney stones, and a severe lung infection causing pain in his rib cage, reportedly due to being beaten while in prison.

According to Taj, the nephrologist at Imam Khomeini hospital issued an order for Habibi’s urgent treatment, as he has kidney and urinary tract conditions that may require surgery. In face of the documented medical urgency, however, authorities have yet to clear him for even preliminary testing.

On the one occasion that Habibi’s request for medical leave was granted, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary, prematurely dismissed from the hospital without receiving treatment, and then transferred to Evin Prison on Monday, September 3, 2018, where he has remained since.

Habibi’s case – and particularly his compromised medical condition – recently drew the support of teacher’s organizations at home and abroad. In a letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the French trade unions SFDT, SGT, FSO, Solidaires, and UNSA held the Supreme Leader accountable for Habibi’s fate and called his imprisonment a violation of both human rights and the fundamental freedoms of syndicates. In May 2018, General Secretary of Education International (EI) David Edwards vehemently denounced Habibi’s arrest and detention, demanding his immediate release in a letter to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

Iranians themselves have also called for Habibi’s release. In a statement signed by over 1,400 civil, political, union and teachers’ activists across Iran, Iranians protested Habibi’s sentence and called for greater solidarity with teachers and other workers in Iranian society.

On July 23rd, 2018, Judge Ahmadzadeh of Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Habibi to 10 and a half years’ imprisonment, i.e. seven and a half years for “national-security related Crimes,” 18 months for “propaganda against the regime”, and another 18 months for “disrupting public order.” In addition to prison terms, he was dealt a two-year ban from political and civic activities, a two-year travel ban, and 74 lashings.

Under Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which holds that prisoners are to serve the lengthiest of their sentences, Habibi’s sentence, if upheld, would put him behind bars for a maximum of seven and a half years, i.e. the heaviest one of his three sentences.

Habibi is a member of the board of directors for the Teachers’ Union Association of Tehran Province.

A letter from his HR office confirmed he is no longer receiving his salary.

Iranian Trucker Strikes Push into Second Straight Week

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – As they make it past the two-week mark, Iranian trucker strikes look nowhere near relenting, and authorities are taking notice.

As of the date of this report, 244 individuals have been arrested in connection to trucker strikes across multiple cities, including but not limited to Shahr-e Kord, Bandar-e Imam Khomeini, Ahvaz, Susangerd, Najaf Abad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Bushehr, Aligudarz, Urmia, Yazd, Zarrin Shahr, Bandar Abbas, Tiran, Miyaneh, Behshahr and Ghuchan.

While broadcasts from state-sponsored news agencies declared on October 6th that the protests were losing steam, the truckers have yet to back down. The same day, the General and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Shahr-e Kord announced that six more protestors had been detained.

Prior to October 6th, 238 individuals connected with the strike had already been detained and booked on charges of corruption on earth, disturbing public order, and banditry. Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri previously threatened the detainees with heavy sentences, reminding them that their charges are punishable by death. Strikers in multiple provinces are taking the risk: Qazvin, Alborz, Ardabil, Isfahan, Fars, Semnan, Kermanshah, Zanjan, Hamadan, Northern Khorasan, and cities of Nahavand, Bujnurd, Kangan, Pakdasht, Nishabur, Shirvan, Azarshahr, Gorgan, Bandar-e Gaz, Izeh, Razan, and Zaran provinces have seen arrests so far.

At a ceremony for the opening of a tunnel connecting Karaj to Chalus, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi acknowledged truck drivers’ role in the construction of the tunnel, telling a reporter, “the demands of the truck drivers will definitely be addressed.”

The Ministry of Roads and Urban Development showed less compassion toward the strikers in an October 6th response to Tehran-based Friday prayer imam Kaze Sadeghi, who stated that the Ministry should answer to their responsibilities and address the issue rather than “saying irrelevant things.” The Ministry’s retort statement read, “truck drivers are hardly struggling.”

In an interview with Mehr news agency, Deputy Head of the Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization (IRMTO) Dariush Amani spoke of his organization’s initiative to meet drivers’ demands for tires, including cheaper import prices on cotton-based tires. “Tires have been placed on the list of essential items which will henceforth be imported at the government-subsidized price of 4200 Tomans [$1 USD].”

Ali Khaneghai, a general manager of the Sistan and Baluchestan provincial transportation and terminals department, acknowledged that high tire prices were one of the industry’s most dire needs, and claimed that 1200 subsidized tires have been distributed to drivers. “The drivers can purchase tires at fair prices through the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade with the presentation of their welcome letter from the Driver’s Union.”

Ahmad Jamshidi, Transportation and Terminals Manager of Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiyari province, also commented on tire influx, stating that 2711 tires had thus far been distributed among regional truckers.

HRANA previously reported on authorities’ reactions to the truckers’ continued strikes, which have been active since September 23rd. On that date, the Iran National Truck Driver’s Trade Union called on truckers to cease their operations until authorities fulfilled a list of 15 conditions, including an increase in pensions, a decrease in part prices, a 70-percent increase in wages, a decrease in insurance premiums, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

Telegram Admin Faces 11 More Years Behind Bars

Posted on: October 5th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 15 ruled October 3rd to sentence Telegram channel administrator and current prisoner Hamidreza Amini to eleven more years in prison. Judge Salavati presided over the hearing, and Amini’s lawyer was present.

Amini has been detained since December of last year on charges of “disseminating lies”, “blasphemy” and “insulting high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic.”

An informed source updated HRANA on Amini’s fate as of yesterday’s trial: five years in prison for charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” one year in prison for ”propaganda against the regime,” and two years in prison for “insulting the supreme leader.” He was acquitted of “insulting the prophet.”

The “insulting the prophet” charge was previously deliberated in August of this year in Tehran Criminal Court Branch 9, presided by Judge Kashkuli. HRANA previously reported on the court hearing, which tried Amini for both “insulting the prophet” and “blasphemy.” Amini’s lawyer Mohammad Hossein Aghasi correctly predicted at the time that the former charge would be dropped.

Earlier, in June, HRANA reported on the postponement of hearing that had been scheduled to try Amini for “insulting the supreme leader and high-ranking officials” in Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court. The session, which would have been presided by Judge Salvati, was postponed pursuant to Article 48 of Islamic Penal Code, which grants defendants more time to select their attorney.

On May 30th, Amini was ordered to pay a fine of 40 million IRR [approximately $400 USD] by Branch 57 of a new court focused on media crimes. He was charged with “spreading misinformation with intent to disturb the public mind.” His lawyer explained to HRANA that his client was charged pursuant to Article 18 of the Computer Crime Code.

Amini has been detained in Evin Prison since December 2, 2017. It has yet to be determined if his prison sentences could be reduced with the application of Article 134 of the code, which limits defendants’ prison terms to the longest among their multiple sentences.

Appeals Court Convenes for 11 January Protest Detainees

Posted on: October 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On Wednesday, October 3rd, Branch One of Markazi Province Appeals Court convened to review the sentences of 11 defendants charged in relation to the nationwide protests that broke out in January of 2018.

Among the accused is attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi, who stated that “economic problems” compelled him and his co-defendants to join the ranks of the January protestors. Najafi’s co-defendants are Ali Bagheri, Abbas Safari, Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou, Mohammad Torabi, and Kian Sadeghi.

Discovery into these protestors’ case file 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.

Investigation court settled on a charge of “disrupting public peace through participating in an illegal gathering,” which according to HRANA reports incurred them one year of imprisonment and 74 lashings each, per the ruling of Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi in Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102.

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.”

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

Najafi was previously detained for inquiring into the death of civilian Vahid Heydari, who passed away while in custody of Arak authorities amid the January protests in Police Detention Center No. 12. While Iranian judicial authorities had claimed Heydari was a drug dealer who committed suicide during his detainment, Najafi’s field research, including interviews with Heydari’s family and friends, concluded that Heydari was a peddler with no criminal record; what’s more, his autopsy revealed no physical marks suspect for suicide. Buried under security supervision, Heydari had head injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma.

The court tried Najafi for his inquiries on June 9, 2018, in Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102. His hearing had previously been delayed due to the absence of the judge.

Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi accused security authorities of fabricating the grounds for Najafi’s case, arguing that Najafi had simply proven that Heydari was not a drug dealer.

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.

Lawyer Mostafa Daneshjoo Remanded to Evin Prison

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Judge Moghiseh has extended the temporary detention period of lawyer and imprisoned Dervish activist Mostafa Daneshjoo, denying his request for bail despite the severe progression of his cardiac and lung disease.

Symptoms of Daneshjoo’s asthma were exacerbated by his stay in Evin Prison’s Ward 250 between 2011 and 2015, on charges of “membership in the Dervish cult,” “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “disturbing the public mind.” Despite orders from the assistant prosecutor that Daneshjoo is sent to a healthcare facility, Evin Prison authorities have barred his transfer.

Seven armed agents arrested Daneshjoo in his mother’s home on July 7th, taking him to solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 — which is under Intelligence Ministry management — where he stayed for 45 days. He was then sent to Ward 4, typically designated for convicts of financial crimes.

Daneshjoo was arrested pursuant to a case file against him in 2017 in Tehran’s Security Investigation Court, in connection to a violent clash that took place February 2018 near the Dervish spiritual leader’s residence on Golestan Avenue in the capital city.

Per a letter from the security office at Azad University, Daneshjoo’s alma mater, he has been barred from continuing his studies. Citing his defense of the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, security authorities have revoked his permit to practice law.

In a note dated October 2nd, attorney Ali Sharifzadeh announced that he had been retained as Daneshjoo’s lawyer in Branch 28 of Revolutionary Court.

Soheil Arabi Sentenced to More Prison Time

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Pursuant to a new case brought against him by Judge Ahmadzadeh of Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 26, Soheil Arabi, a prisoner of conscience in Great Tehran Penitentiary, was sentenced September 22nd to three years in prison, three years in exile, and a fine of approximately 40 million IRR [approximately $400 USD] on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “disturbing the public mind.” His lawyer did not learn of the verdict until eight days later.

A source close to Arabi told HRANA that the courts pursued new charges against him because of voicemail messages he left from prison; in one of these, he reportedly compared the Great Tehran Penitentiary to a torture chamber.

Arabi’s mother Farangis Mazloum told HRANA, “When I went to Great Tehran Penitentiary to see Soheil this morning, prison authorities told me that they had taken my son to court and that he is banned from having visitors,” she said.

Judge Moghiseh previously sentenced Arabi, along with his ex-wife Nastaran Naeimi, to prison time: six years for Arabi on charges of “blasphemy” and “propaganda against the regime,” and a year and a half for Naeimi, for “propaganda against the regime” and “aiding and abetting.”

Soheil Arabi, a 33-year-old photographer, was arrested by Sarallah-based agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on November 7, 2013, for comments he had posted on his Facebook page. Judge Siamak Modir Khorasani cited the Facebook posts as evidence of “insulting the prophet” — a charge that can incur capital punishment — in Branch 76 of Tehran’s Criminal Court.

Arabi’s lawyers subsequently appealed to Branch 36 of Supreme Court, pleading Article 263 of the Islamic Penal Code. While Article 262 recommends the death sentence for those who insult the prophet, Article 263 reduces the death sentence to 74 lashes for defendants whose statements “have been under coercion or mistake, or in a state of drunkenness, or anger or slip of the tongue, or without paying attention to the meaning of the words, or quoting someone else…”.

Unmoved by the Article-263 argument, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, unlawfully adding to his case file the charge of “corruption on earth.”

A retrial request was later accepted in Supreme Court Branch 34, which acquitted him of “insulting the prophet” and commuted his death sentence to seven and a half years’ imprisonment, plus a two-year travel ban and two years of religious probation to evaluate his repentance upon his release.

Arabi had not seen the end of his legal troubles, however — in 2014, Branch 10 of Iran’s Court for Government Employees would sentence him to a 5 million IRR fine [approximately $50 USD] and 30 lashings for insulting the following three people with his Facebook posts: Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Gholamali Haddad Adel, and the Director of Allameh Tabatabai University. That same year, Judge Abolghassem Salavati of Revolutionary Court Branch 15 would sentence him to three years in prison for “insulting Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic” and “propaganda against the regime.” Branch 54 of Appeals Court upheld the latter sentence a short time later.

Arabi has been in prison without furlough since November 7, 2013.