Citing Constitutional Trespass, Abbas Lasani Rejects Court’s Second Summons

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Azerbaijani activist Abbas Lasani’s public dissent with the Iranian judicial system continued this week with his spurning, via open letter, of a second court subpoena that he decries as illegitimate. “I will not abide by the rule of tyranny, and thus I express my protest and rebellion against this illegal process, and against your oppressive conduct unbecoming of a court,” he wrote.

Via SMS on September 24th, Lasani learned he had been convicted in absentia in Branch 2 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court. On October 10th, a writ summoned him to hear the conviction in court within the next ten days.

“My verdict was delivered by a totally illegal and unlawful process that is neither reasonable nor acceptable,” Lasani wrote, explaining that constitutional article 168 stipulates that verdicts in political, press, or conscience cases must be tried in public and in the presence of the media.

HRANA reported September 16th on Lasani’s refusal to respond to an initial summons via text message from the same court. “It’s impossible to ignore that the summons is illegitimate, arriving by text message with no official hard copy,” Lasani said in a public statement.

Abbas Lasani was among a group of four Azerbaijani (Turk) activists residing in Ardebil arrested by Intelligence agents July 2, 2018, a few days before an annual gathering at Babak Fort, a site that has acquired symbolic importance for Azerbaijani rallies in recent years. Prior to his arrest, he had shared a video encouraging people to attend the gathering. He was released on 500 million rials [$3,500 USD] bail July 11, 2018. More than 80 Azerbaijani activists were arrested throughout Ardabil, West Azerbaijan, and East Azerbaijan provinces at the time of the Babak Fort gathering.

Amnesty International issued a statement on August 11th of this year, calling the arrests of Azerbaijani activists “arbitrary” and unlawful, and demanded the immediate release of all individuals detained for their participation in Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gatherings.

Prisoner of Conscience Voices Support for Striking Truckers

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Rajai Shahr prisoner of conscience Ebrahim Firoozi has written an open letter in support of Iranian truck drivers, who authorities have arrested in droves since they began striking September 22nd.

As the trucker strikes approach their 21st consecutive day, 261 arrestees face “corruption on earth,” “disrupting public order”, and “robbery” charges. As the country’s top prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has emphasized to strikers, some of these charges carry the death penalty.

In his letter, Firoozi tells authorities that continued arrests “won’t stop truck drivers from pursuing their rights,” and criticizes them for “arresting the drivers rather than solving problems rooted in [authorities’] incompetence and lack of foresight.” The truckers are demanding more affordable truck parts, better compensation, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

Firoozi, a Christian convert, has a long history of imprisonment due to his religious activities, including a September 16, 2013 arrest. He was convicted in Spring 2016 of “forming a group with intent to disrupt national security” by Judge Moghiseh in Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 28. Tehran Appeals court later upheld his five-year prison sentence.

Iran’s Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Hedayat Abdollahpour

Posted on: October 10th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Supreme Court Branch 47 has upheld the death sentence for Urmia prisoner Hedayat Abdollahpour, one of several defendants charged in connection to the Oshnavieh clashes, his lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz told HRANA. It also upheld the prison sentences of six of Abdollahpour’s co-defendants, who are currently free on bail.

Ahmadiniaz and Abdollapour’s family learned yesterday October 8th of the high court’s assent to his January 2017 capital punishment sentence in Urmia Revolutionary Court Branch 1, on a charge of “Baqi,” i.e. rebellion [often used against those accused of participating in armed uprisings]. Abdollapour maintains that he never took up arms and did not have a weapon at the time of his arrest.

Abdollahpour was arrested along with six others on June 15, 2016, in Qarah Soqol village near the city of Oshnavieh. His case was initially toggled from one court to another: charges were first ruled in initial court, reversed in supreme court, and then sent back to the parallel court branch that ultimately decided his fate.

Ahmadniaz told HRANA that his client was guilty simply of having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Hedayat Abdollahpour is being processed on something he knows nothing about, and towards which he would have no inclination,” Ahmadniaz said. “These honorable plaintiffs — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — want to put him to death for Baqi.”

Ahmadiniaz went on to iterate the upheld prison sentences of Abdollahpour’s co-defendants: Rasoul Azizi Alias Hassed, 25 years; Mohammad Zaher Faramarzi, 20 years; Jalal Masroori and Yaghob Ba Ekram, 15 years each; Kamal Masroori and Sedigh Baekram, 10 years each.

The Oshnavieh clashes were fights that broke out between the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of Hamzeh in the summer of 2016. Many from both sides were wounded or lost their lives in the conflicts.

Many of those residing in the border region of Oshnavieh were arrested and convicted on suspicions of collaborating wwith the Kurdish opposition.

Abdollahpour’s brother Farhad was arrested by IRGC Intelligence forces June 30th of this year and taken to IRGC detention center in Urmia. He was transferred to Oshnavieh Prison September 13th and later released on a bail of 2 billion rials [approximately $20,000 USD].

Reza Khandan Spurns Second Illegitimate Court Summons

Posted on: October 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- In the face of the legal obligation to summon defendants a minimum of one week before their hearings, authorities summoned imprisoned civil rights activist Reza Khandan Friday, October 5th for a hearing in Revolutionary Court Branch 15 the very next day.

Khandan, who is married to imprisoned civil rights activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, said he refused to respond to the unlawful summons. “Almost all prisoners are sent to the court in this manner. Some of them even attend court without a defense lawyer, because they can’t contact one on such a limited time frame.”

In a note yesterday, Khandan’s lawyer Mohammad Moghimi wrote that his client was within his right not to show up, as provisioned in Section 343 of Criminal Procedure Code. “[…] Such a trial is illegitimate,” Moghimi said.

Khandan was arrested by security forces in his home on Tuesday, September 4th after ignoring a September 3rd summons unlawfully issued by phone. He was charged at Branch 7 of the Evin prosecutor’s office and sent to prison the same day.

On September 22, 2018, HRANA reported on the referral of Reza Khandan’s case from Revolutionary Court to Evin Court in order to resolve deficiencies in his case file.

According to HRANA reports, Ministry of Intelligence security forces searched the homes of Mohammadreza (Davoud) Farhadpour, Jila Karamzadeh Makvandi, and Khandan’s sister on Saturday, August 18th. The forces reportedly confiscated pin-back buttons reading “I am against forced veiling” along with letters that Sotoudeh had written to Khandan from prison.

At Least 20 Detained in Series of Home Raids in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province

Posted on: October 5th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Over the past few days, security forces transported at least 20 residents of Dehdasht, Suq, and Charam — cities in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province — to an undisclosed location, for undisclosed reasons, and without producing an arrest warrant.

A local source told HRANA that Ministry of Intelligence Agents whisked away several local residents after completing unannounced searches of their homes. HRANA has so far been able to confirm the identities of four arrestees: Ali Sina Heidari, Zarir Hadipour, Farhang Khorshidi, and Persian literature teacher Bahram Sorkhabi (a.k.a. Poor Behzad).

A Dehdasht resident described the thickening of security forces across main transportation arteries of Dehsasht and Choram: “Agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, IRGC, and Basij have set up checkpoints along the main streets of the city, and along the roads leading to Souq, Yasuj, Behbahan, and Gachsaran.”

According to the Dehdasht source, the families of the 20 detained residents have thus far been met with silence from regional security and judicial authorities, who since the arrests of October 1st and 3rd have offered no information about their loved ones’ cases or well-being. “[The families] were threatened with prosecution if they publicly disclose information about the arrests,” the source said.

Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, a province of southwestern Iran, is comprised of Boyer-Ahmad (capital: Yasuj), Bahmai (capital: Likak), Dena (capital: Sisakht), Kohgiluyeh (capital: Dehdasht), Gachsaran (capital: Dogonbadan), Charam (capital: Charam), Basht (capital: Basht), and Landeh (capital: Landeh) counties.

HRANA will publish updates on this case as soon as they come available.

In Wake of Ahvaz Parade Attack, a Sweep of Arrests Sows Community Unease

Posted on: September 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Four days after the September 22nd armed attack on an Ahvaz military parade that left several civilians wounded, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has announced that it has 22 suspects in custody, backing its announcement with a video recording of blindfolded, unidentified detainees facing a wall.

Local sources have countered this official report, estimating the tally of those detained so far to be closer to 300. The majority of these arrests have taken place in the cities of Ahvaz, Khorramshahr, Susangerd, and Abadan, all located in Khuzestan province. HRANA is working to independently confirm the total number of arrests and the identities of those detained.

Security measures now loom large over the Arab-majority neighborhoods south of Khuzestan, local sources say, while the families of those detained have been unable to obtain any indication from authorities on the status or location of their loved ones.

Many of the recent arrestees have a previous track record with police, pointing to the possibility that security forces are applying the timeworn approach of attempting to pluck clues from past offenders about a recent incident.

Despite the urgency to hold the assailants accountable for wounding and killing civilians, including women and children, Iran’s security establishment is marred by a history of questionable investigative methods, raising public concern that innocent scapegoats may be subject to coercive interrogations in order to be impugned for the attacks. Iranian Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi has already made the public claim that “the terrorists who opened fire on the crowd have been killed,” adding, “Every single person behind the attack […] will be identified, and the majority of them have already been apprehended.”

On the day of the attack, a military parade in Ahvaz commemorating the Iran-Iraq war was interrupted when gunmen suddenly opened fire on soldiers and spectators. That day, Mojtaba Zolnour, a member of the Iranian parliamentary committee for national security and foreign affairs, announced that 29 had died and 57 were wounded. Iran-based media agencies published a list of victims that included several civilians, including a 4-year-old child.

Both Al-Ahwaz National Resistance group and ISIS (Daesh) have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Kermanshah Prisoner Shahriar Tahmasbi: Status Update

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Unable to post his bail amount of 150 million tomans (approximately $36,000 USD), Kermanshah resident Shahriar Tahmasbi has been behind bars since security forces detained him on July 5th.

An informed source told HRANA that Tahmasbi’s bail was too heavy for him to post. “He has not yet been able to procure that much money. He requested that the bail is lowered, but no decisions have been made so far in that regard.”

Tahmasbi was arrested along with Mostafa Bagheri Ashena and Ardeshir Musavi, whose bails were also set at $36,000 apiece. While both were able to afford it and have now gone free, HRANA’s source stated that the bail amount was far out of proportion with the severity of the charges they face.

Earlier, another source provided background into the evening Tahmasbi was arrested, stating that a group of about 8 people had gathered in the Kermanshah residence of Ali Nazari on Jalili street to discuss the formation of a literary society for speakers, learners, and enthusiasts of a minority dialect called Laki.

“Security forces entered the house proclaiming that Shahriyar Tahmasbi was a fugitive, and arrested him along with Ardeshir Musavi,” the source said. “They also seized the cellphones of six people in attendance, including the host.”

Tahmasbi was also detained on September 6th of last year for organizing a protest in support of border couriers known as Kulbars. Walking out of Kermanshah’s Dizelabad Prison one month later on October 10, 2017, cost him $24,000 (100 million Tomans) in bail money.

HRANA has previously reported on the relatively higher rates of detention of Iranian citizens near the western border.

Northeastern Border Guard Opens Fire on Shepherd

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- As he had done for the past 20 years, Hamidreza Sepahi Layin was taking his sheep to graze from the border town of Dargaz, Razavi Khorasan province on September 19th, 2018. As Hamid’s brother Alireza explains, shepherds like Hamidreza often usher their herds across the plains and mountain grasses carpeting Iran’s northeastern borderlands with Turkmenistan. What happened next, however, was a break in routine.

That day, Layin, a 32-year-old father of two, had herded his flock about half of a mile into Turkmenistan territory when he caught sight of Majid Amiri, the head of the Sangdivar border guard post. Layin was familiar with the guard, and while crossing back to the Iranian side made his way over to greet him. When he was about 10 yards away from being able to reach out and give him a handshake, Amiri pulled out a gun and opened fire on Layin’s leg.

A friend and fellow shepherd had accompanied Layin that morning and procured a donkey to rush his wounded friend to the village clinic. As Layin slipped out of consciousness, profusely losing blood from two bullet wounds, Amiri blocked their passage for a full 40 minutes until Layin’s friend told him to either pull the gun on him, too, or let them go. Amiri let them pass.

Amiri’s plans to blame Turkmens for the shooting were upended by a Turkmen cohort who witnessed the incident from afar and reported it to authorities before him. Layin has undergone an operation to repair his bullet-shattered bone with metal plates.

Alireza Sepahi Layi, who is an author and journalist, wrote a note about his brother’s ordeal entitled “one bird with two stones,” excerpts of which have been translated into English by HRANA:

“We do have borders, in drought and abundance, war and peace, mourning and joy, solitude and company. For the past 500 years, we have used our bodies as shields, holding our ground, digging in our heels. With blood, sweat and tears, we quenched the thirst of our herds and irrigated our paddies and wheat fields. All of this to make sure that Russians, Uzbeks, and Turkmens don’t open their eyes one morning to find border villages like Sandiqal and Layin abandoned by Iranians; lest they believe those brave sentinels have tired of their duties and fled. I went to Dargaz today. No, I had not been summoned to court– not this time.  I’ve come many a time for trials or for prison to my hometown of Kalat-e Naderi. This time my destination was Dargaz, and my reason was to visit my brother who had been shot; a bird, shot with two stones. A man to whom fighting and brawls are unknown, who has never raised his shepherd’s crook, even to an ant. Thank God the bullets had the decency to strike only his shin. While they shattered his leg, they, fortunately, spared his life. The shooting took place during the Muharram ceremonies, on the eve of the anniversary of *Hussein’s death; and just as it was back then between Hussein and Yazid, a line in blood was drawn between the forces of good and evil. Javad Amiri, the head of Sangdivar border guard, pulled the trigger. He had just finished his officer training. He was probably sent for shooting practice to the border post, where the people have been defenseless for centuries, wielding only crooks of shepherding, shovels of gardening, and sickles of harvest. They have spread their generosity, kindness, and hospitality from **Hezarmasjed to ***Alborz and ****Zagros mountains…”

<b> * </b>     The third Shiite saint and Imam whose death in battle in the 7th century AD is a watershed moment in Shiite history commemorated each year in widespread rituals. Hussein represents the force of Good while the ruler he was fighting against, Yazid, symbolizes Evil.

<b> ** </b>   Mountain range in northeastern Iran

<b> *** </b>   Mountain range in Northern Iran

<b> **** </b>   Mountain range in Western Iran

 

Political Prisoner’s Brother Fights to Save Him from a Legal Crisis, or Worse

Posted on: September 23rd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Iranian citizens continue to speak out on behalf of their imprisoned loved ones and compatriots, and Hejar Alipour’s voice is the most recent to join the throng of support. In an open letter, Alipour defends the rights to family visitation, family contact, and attorney consultation for Mohammad Ostadghader and his own brother Houshmand Alipour, both of whom are imprisoned on charges of “membership in Kurdish Anti-regime Parties” and–if the fears of human rights organizations prove true–may be on track to the death penalty.

Four days after the August 3rd arrest of Alipour and Ostadghader by the Ministry of Intelligence, Iranian National Television broadcasted a recording of the two men confessing involvement in an attack on a Saghez security base. Both have been barred from contacting their families since the day of their arrest, with the exception of a short phone call from Alipour to his family September 1st, in which he said he had been coerced to confess under threat of torture.

Amnesty International recently published a press release expressing grave concern about the imprisonment and forced confessions of the two men: “Mohammad Ostadghader was shot and injured during the arrest but has been denied medical care,” the press release stated, adding that the prisoners have been held in an unknown location, out of reach from their families or lawyers. “[We are] concerned that the nature of the accusations against them and their forced televised confessions may be a precursor to charges that incur the death penalty.”

In defense of the rights of prisoners like his brother Houshmand, Hejar Alipour pleads their case to the international human rights community in the letter below, translated into English by HRANA:

“It has been two months since my brother Houshmand Alipour and his friend Mohammad Ostadghader were trapped by intelligence officers of the Islamic Republic at the Keh Li Khan Mountain Pass near the city of Baneh. Since then, we have had no news of or contact from my brother Houshmand, other than a few-minute-long phone call from him during which he told us that he is detained at the Intelligence Office of Sananadaj. The Intelligence officers lied to him, promising that they will allow him contact and visits with his family. Yet he continues to be banned from having visitors and has not had permission to contact the family. We retained two attorneys for Houshmand who went to the prison, the Judicial Office, and the Intelligence Office of Kurdistan province in order to make arrangements to represent him. However, the intelligence and security officers of the regime refused the meeting and turned them away.

The lives of Houshmand and Mohammad are in serious danger. Under torture, they have been forced to falsely implicate themselves, thus validating national security charges being levied against them. The Islamic Republic is bound to Islamic Penal Code, Shari’a law, and its own provisions, i.e. criminals’ and accused citizens’ rights to a fair trial, an attorney, and official legal visitation, at least within a number of days of arrest. In the case of Houshmand and Mohammad, the Islamic republic is not only violating its own principles and Islamic judicial proceedings but also denying defendants’ most basic rights by treating them inhumanely and employing physical violence and torture. The extraction of confessions under violent torture, the broadcasting of those confessions on August 7, 2017, the refusal to allow contact with attorneys or families, and denying visitation, are all violations of the basic rights of any prisoner, be they political or criminal; of rights set forth by the Islamic Republic […]

By international human rights standards, and even by the standards of the Islamic Republic, any mistreatment, or forced confession under torture, is an inhumane and criminal act. The Islamic Republic is not holding itself accountable to any principle of morality or humanity[…]. Considering the circumstances, and as the family of political prisoner Houshmand Alipour, we are concerned about the physical conditions of Houshmand and Mohammad, and of their restricted access to medical care. We hold the intelligence and judicial officials of the Islamic Republic responsible for any physical outcomes of the dangers they currently face.

We have announced the Campaign to Save the Life of Houshmand Alipour and ask all freedom-loving, humanitarian people of the world to join our campaign so that we can prevent the slow death or execution of these two prisoners by the Islamic Republic. On September 11, 2018, Amnesty International announced an urgent and accelerated campaign to save the lives of Houshmand and Mohammad, expressing its concern and demanding that authorities address the appalling state of deprivation that these two prisoners are in. This campaign was circulated to all international human right organizations, the European Union, the United Nations, and other institutions defending Human rights. In Canada, we were able to spread the word about my brother Houshmand’s case with the help of Amnesty International and Center for Victims of Torture, as well as through contacts with Canadian parliament and ministers. We ask the Canadian Government to immediately condemn the Islamic Republic’s violation of the most basic rights of these two prisoners, i.e. to visitation with the attorney and the family. Please join the Campaign to Save the Life of Houshmand Alipour, to save Houshmand and Mohammad’s lives. Help us lift their voices to the level of governments and human rights institutions. We thank all those who have already expressed their support and concern for the life of my brother.”

Afrin Battles Detainees Condemned to 11 Years in Prison

Posted on: September 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The verdict of Mostafa Ghader Zeinab and Rahim Mahmoudi Azar–two Urmia residents who were sent back to Iran from Syrian Kurdistan after being wounded in the Turkish offensives on Afrin–was upheld by Branch 1 of the Appeals Court of Urmia.

Per their original sentencing by Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court of Urmia on July 6, 2018, Zeinab and Azar face five years in prison on charges of “Membership in anti-regime groups,” five years in prison for “collusion and conspiracy,” and one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.”

Zeinab has been released on bail, and Azar remains in detention at Urmia.

A source close to both men previously told HRANA that Zeinab and Azar were members of a Kurdish military group fighting in Syria. After sustaining injuries during a Turkish attack on Afrin, they were transferred to a hospital in Aleppo. “Upon realizing their nationalities, Syrian authorities handed them over to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” the source said.

According to the source, they were interrogated at Evin Detention Center for a week in March 2018 before being transferred to Urmia’s Intelligence Office, where they were interrogated for a month.

Both men have been denied the right to appoint lawyers of their choice and attended their court session with a public defender.