Elderly Turkish Citizen Declares Hunger Strike in Urmia Prison

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- Dejected at the Judiciary’s broken promise to return him to his native Turkey, ailing 70-year-old prisoner Hatam Ertoghlu declared hunger strike November 9th.

Currently held in Urmia’s Ward 4-3, Ertoghlu has been behind bars for the past nine years on drug-related charges. According to a close source, he has had multiple hospital admissions for various ailments, not least of which was a heart attack.

“Last year, per court order, he gave prison authorities 12 million tomans [approximately $2,800 USD] to cover the fees for his transfer back to Turkey,” a close source said. “Yet despite the consent of Turkish authorities, that transfer never took place.”

Undeterred by his physical distress, old age, and cardiac disease, Ertoghlu is now starving himself in protest.

Ertoghlu initially faced a sentence of life in prison, which was commuted to 24 years in 2017.

Zanjan Revolutionary Court Acquits Civil Rights Activist Safiyeh Gharebaghi

Posted on: November 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – “I was acquitted!” wrote Safiyeh Gharebaghi, a Zanjan-based civil rights activist, on November 6th. That day, Judge Siyadi of Zanjan Revolutionary Court Branch 1 acquitted her of all charges, namely propaganda against the regime and gathering and conspiring against national security.

Quoting an excerpt of the court’s ruling, Gharebaghi said the verdict legitimized her right to dissent under Iranian law:

“‘[…]This court, considering the criticism of certain laws and procedures, even legal judgments, to be the incontrovertible right of every individual and legal entity, and considering that the crime’s spiritual basis was devoid of criminal intent, rejects the defendant’s charges and hereby announces its ruling to acquit.”

No verdict has yet been issued on Gharebaghi’s separate case in Zanjan General Court, where she faces charges of spreading lies and disrupting the public mind.

Gharebaghi was initially detained by the Zanjan Intelligence Office in 2017 on charges of propaganda against the regime in cyberspace, abetting sedition, and spreading lies. Her cited infractions included protesting gender inequality, voicing support of political prisoners and the sedition movement, and signing a condolence letter for the late father of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Three Writers Slapped With New Charges

Posted on: November 5th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Reza Khandan (Mahabadi) and Keyvan Bazhan, two members of the Iranian PEN Centre, and Bektash Abtin, one of the Centre’s inspectors, are facing new criminal charges which have doubled their bail amount.

Previously held on charges of “propaganda against the regime” with a bail set at 50 million tomans [approximately $3,300 USD], the three were recently summoned to Branch 7 of the Evin Prosecutions Office to be read new charges of “assembly and collusion with intent to act against national security” and “inciting Iranian women to depravity.” An informed source told HRANA that the case investigator has increased their bail amount to 100 million tomans [approximately $6,600 USD].

Of the new charge, Mahabadi said, “From what we’ve gathered from the case investigator, it seems certain officials deemed ‘propaganda against the regime’ to be too light a charge for us, and asked the investigator to recall the case and add more charges.” He added that he and his comrades denied the accusations and demanded proof.

All three defendants were read their charges of “propaganda against the regime” back in August. HRANA reported August 2, 2018, on the court summons of Bektash Abtin — poet, filmmaker, and former PEN member — to Branch 7 of the Evin Prosecution Office. Khandan and Bazhan received their respective writs on July 26th, giving them three days’ notice to appear in the same spot.

Reza Khandan (Mahabadi) (left) and Keyvan Bazhan (right), two members of the Iranian PEN Centre, and Bektash Abtin (middle).

In June 2018 and in a separate case, Karaj Revolutionary Court Branch 2 convicted Abtin of propaganda against the regime, sentencing him to three months’ forced labor at the State Welfare Organization of Iran and a fine of 5 million tomans [approximately $700 USD]. An appeals court later lifted the forced labor sentence.

Ministry of Intelligence Agents also detained Abtin was for three consecutive days in 2015, interrogating him about his film-making, membership in the CIW, and participation in the 2009 post-election protests.

The Iranian PEN Centre is a non-governmental organization founded in 1968 with the aim of uniting writers, translators, and editors against censorship. It is a subsidiary of PEN International. Since its foundation, and particularly during the 80s and 90s, Iranian authorities have hounded its members with repression, judicial prosecution, and targeted killings. Members Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh and Mohammad Mokhtari were among those killed by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence in the “chain murders” in the late 80s and early 90s.

Hand Amputation Raises Specter of Cruel and Unusual Punishments

Posted on: November 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Morteza Esmaeilian, 37, a married father of two from Urmia, was arrested in 2013 on multiple counts of burglary. In 2015, Urmia General Court Branch 112 sentenced him to 15 years in prison and the amputation of the fingers on his right hand.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal and upheld the sentence as written in Autumn of 2016. He requested a retrial as a final recourse, but it was denied by the judiciary in Summer of the following year.

An agent from the execution of sentences unit informed Esmaeili last week that his amputation was imminent.

HRANA reported on an Urmia Central prisoner facing a similar fate: Branch 1 of Juvenile Criminal Court ordered the amputation of four fingers off of Kasra Karami’s right hand, set to be carried out in the near future.

Amputation falls under punishments sanctioned by Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Canadian Resident Saeed Malekpour Transferred to Hospital After Heart Attack

Posted on: October 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Evin Prison approved the transfer of prisoner Saeed Malekpour to the cardiology department of Taleqani Hospital last week after he suffered from a heart attack.

A Canadian resident and alumna of the elite Sharif University in Tehran, Malekpour has a growing list of medical complaints that authorities have ignored over the course of 10 years of imprisonment. His requests for medical treatment and furlough have repeatedly been denied.

Now, photographs taken during his recent hospitalization show a worrying mass on Malekpour’s right knee, MRI results on which are pending. Malekpour has also developed kidney stones and prostate issues during his time behind bars.

With an arm and a leg uncomfortably restrained to the gurney, his sister Maryam told HRANA that Malekpour had trouble getting restorative sleep during his three-day stay. Sources indicate he was banned from hospital visits and subjected to mistreatment by security forces.

In 2008, the Cyber Unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), accusing Malekpour of managing Persian-language pornographic websites, arrested him during a trip to Iran to see family. Branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death plus seven and a half years in prison, on counts of “propaganda against the regime,” “blasphemy,” “insulting the Supreme Leader,” “insulting the president,” “contacting opposition groups” and “corruption on earth.”

Malekpour’s death penalty sentence, though confirmed by the Supreme Court and sent to the Enforcement Department, was eventually reduced to a life sentence. Throughout his legal proceedings, Malekpour has insisted that case analysis by a computer and internet expert would absolve him of the aforementioned charges.

In a letter written from prison, Malekpour said he was previously isolated in solitary confinement for 320 days, during which time he was subject to torture, and given only a Qur’an, a Turbah [prayer clay tablet], and bottle of water.

Malekpour’s family has also borne the pain of his legal ordeal. Promising him that it would facilitate a bail release, authorities coerced Malekpour to provide a taped confession which was televised shortly after his father’s death in 2009. Malekpour learned of his father’s passing in a five-minute phone call 40 days after the fact.

Prisoner Executed in Sirjan

Posted on: October 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- At dawn on Thursday, October 18th, Hossein Nosrat Abadi, 37, was hanged to death in Sirjan Prison.

Convicted of committing murder during a 2016 home burglary, Abadi was unable to obtain a death row pardon from the family of the victim.

By hanging Abadi in silence, authorities — particularly the judiciary — demonstrate a continued pattern of obfuscation on the topic of executions, in spite of their duties to inform the public.

The research of international human rights organizations indicates that Iran has the world’s highest rate of executions per capita. HRANA published its annual death penalty report on October 10th, the World Day against the Death Penalty.

Sirjan is located 600 miles southeast of Tehran.

Azerbaijani Activist Nasim Sadeghi Arrested in Tabriz

Posted on: October 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Azerbaijani activist and Tabriz resident Nasim Sadeghi was arrested by security forces on her walk home October 21st. On a phone call with her child from an undisclosed location, she explained that she had been taken into custody.

Confirming the news of Sadeghi’s arrest, a close source told HRANA that security forces also confiscated her personal belongings, including her cell phone, computer, and books. No further information is available on her location or the charges against her.

On July 28, 2016, Sadeghi was among dozens apprehended for their participation in a public protest against controversial comments published in the newspaper Tarh-e No. The Prosecutor’s Interrogation Office of Tabriz Revolutionary Court Branch 7 accused her of acting against national security through propaganda against the regime, interrogating her for five days in the Intelligence Detention Center of Tabriz. She was released on a bail of 1 billion IRR (approximately $8000 USD) pending trial.

In June 2017, HRANA reported on Sadeghi’s summons to Branch 1 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court for continued judicial proceedings.

Still no Answers for Sequestered Baha’is of Karaj

Posted on: October 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Thirty days have passed since security forces first swept through Karaj and began arresting its Baha’i residents, sending eight of them to prison after inspections of their homes between September 16th and October 17th.

From the walls of Evin Prison, these eight await definitive answers to why, and for how long, they will have to stay there. They were previously identified as Parvan Manavi, Elham Salmanzadeh, Hooman Khoshnam, Payam Shabani, Peyman Manavi, Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, Jamileh Pakrou (Mohammad Hossein) and Kianoush Salmanzadeh.

“The Baha’i detainees said over the phone that they had been transferred to Evin Prison […],” an informed source told HRANA. “Despite inquiries from their families, no information is currently available regarding their status.”

Parvan Manavi and Elham Salmanzadeh became the seventh and eighth Baha’is to be arrested in Karaj after authorities confiscated some of their books and personal belongings during a raid of their homes Tuesday, October 16th. Khoshnam and Shabani were arrested on September 25th and 26th of this year, and Peyman Manavi, Kianoush Salmanzadeh, Ghafarmanesh, and Pakrou were arrested September 16th.

The threat of arbitrary detainment loomed larger than ever over Iran’s Baha’i religious minority this past month, as Iran’s security and judiciary establishment whisked away a number of its members in a surge of arrests that has yet to be explained. HRANA also reported on the arrests of Baha’i citizens in the central cities of Shiraz and Isfahan over this time period.

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Iran’s constitution, however, recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

Open Letter: Atena Daemi Lauds the Emotional Labor of Iranian Mothers

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Atena Daemi, a civil rights activist imprisoned since October 21, 2014, has written an open letter to her mother marking her fourth year of incarceration.

In the note, Daemi describes the difficulties endured by her family — particularly her mother — who she characterizes as one of her most important sources of strength in recent years.

With fellow political prisoners Maryam Akbari Monfared and Golrokh Iraee, Daemi was punished October 3rd with a three-week ban on family visits, per verbal orders from the Women’s Warden at Evin. All three were told the ban served to punish them for refusing an unlawful interrogation this past September.

HRANA has translated the full text of Daemi’s letter below:

Four years ago to this day, I was on my way to work on a cold autumn morning. You had gone to buy fresh bread for us. I was running late, so I didn’t get to see you before dad and I left the house. Before we could reach the end of the alley, they blocked our way, arrested me, put me in another car, and returned to the house with dad, all 11 of them. I don’t know how you reacted when you saw them. After an hour, they brought me back home. I was shocked to see you. I was shocked by your screams at the agents.

“Go on and take my daughter too. You took all of these young people – and how far did that get you? You know what? Go ahead and kill my daughter too. You killed Sattar Beheshti [a blogger who died in prison in 2012] and all those other young people. And what came of it?”

They threatened to detain you too, and you shot back, “Take me! You’ve outdone yourselves putting mothers behind bars and bereaving them.”

I thought you would be scared, but you weren’t; I thought you would blame and reproach me, but you didn’t. In our own language, you told me to go– that this would be the first night I would spend away from home, but that you were still behind me, still with me, and that one day no child would be separated from their mother. That lifted a weight off my shoulders; it felt as though you had given me wings. I went, but you never left me for a moment; we were bonded more than ever, together, united.

I remember your face that day in the Revolutionary Court when I was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Giddily and sarcastically, you quipped, “14 years is nothing– we expected the death penalty!” I know you felt a quiver of fear, but you didn’t show it. Sixteen months later, I returned home and you were in good spirits, though you knew I wouldn’t be staying long. They came back for me nine months later. You weren’t in Tehran then. I called you to let you know they were taking me. You told me to put you on speakerphone so that they could hear you. You were screaming “What do you want from our children? What have they done? What did they ever ask of you? The day will come when us mothers will hold you accountable…”

After I went, they opened cases against your other two daughters, convicting them. You laughed and said that we should ask them to set up a family suite in the prison that would house us all!

I went on hunger strike. I will not forget the concern in your eyes, but your words, filled with hope and promise, only made me more steadfast. Your daughters were acquitted, and I stayed. They filed new cases and lawsuits against me, one after the other. Then, they dragged me to Gharchak Prison, beating me and insulting me. That following Thursday I called home. You were happy to hear my voice and asked how the prison administrators had come to be so charitable on a Thursday [the beginning of the weekend in Iran].

I laughed and said, “I’m calling you from Gharchak Prison.” You replied that it was only right that I see the women held in Gharchak as well. “Let’s see how far they want to go!” you said.

When I contacted you a few days later, you did not answer. I was told that you went to the Prosecutor’s office to see about my case. The more time passed without any news from you, the more worried I became. You finally replied after 7 p.m. and told me that they had detained you along with Hanieh [my sister]. You told me how they beat you both and shocked you with stun guns. My body trembled at that thought.

You told me they shocked your leg when you refused to get into their car. You said it didn’t hurt, that it felt like stinging nettles. I was trembling with anger, but you were laughing and said that you didn’t back down and gave them a piece of your mind.

My phone rights and visits were cut.

Then came your little girl’s wedding day– my sister Hanieh was getting married…

They did not let me go on furlough to come to the wedding. You came to visit me in Gharchak. Hanieh was restless but you calmed her down, telling her not to cry but to laugh and be joyous so that the authorities wouldn’t get the idea that their tactics can break [me]. I remember that you reminded her that Fariba Kamalabadi [Baha’i prisoner of conscience] hadn’t been granted furlough to attend her own daughter’s wedding. You asked me to distribute sweets to my cell and ward mates to celebrate my sister’s wedding inside the prison. What a memorable night that was!

I was returned to Evin Prison. Then we heard news of the execution of Zanyar, Loghman, and Ramin. You went on a hunger strike, wore black, and came to visit me in tears. They had harassed me that day, but the three of us just held hands and sang a song for our fallen brothers. Again, they cut me off from family visits.

Mother, would you look at how pathetic and short-sighted they are? When Zanyar Moradi hadn’t seen his mother in nine years when he was killed, and they think they’re going to break me by withholding my visiting rights for a while? The pain of mothers never ends. If they think they can reform us, silence us, or make us remorseful with such childish measures, they are sorely mistaken. We won’t be disciplined; rather, we will carry on with more resolve than before.

It has been three weeks since we last saw each other. You’ve gone to visit with Ramin’s mother, Zanyar and Loghman’s families, and the family of Sharif, who died in the fire[Kurdish activist who died fighting wildfires in western Iran]. You visited Narges [Mohammadi] and the family of Homa [Soltanpour]. While we haven’t seen each other, you have embraced the pains and sorrows of fellow mothers.

Send my regards to all the mourning and bereaved mothers of Iran and tell them I shall call for justice for them as long as I live!

Atena Daemi
October 21, 2019
Evin Prison

___________________________________________________________________________

After her arrest on October 21, 2014, Atena Daemi spent 86 days in solitary confinement before being transferred to the Women’s Ward of Evin prison. In May 2015, Judge Moghiseh of Revolutionary Court Branch 28 sentenced her to 14 years’ imprisonment on charges of assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda against the regime, and insulting the supreme leader. She was released February 2017 on 5.5 billion IRR [approximately $140,000 USD] bail. Her sentence was then reduced to seven years on appeal. She was detained November 26, 2016 to serve her sentence, which since been reduced to five years.

Bail Release of Syndicate Chairman Arrested Amid Teacher Strikes

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Mohammadreza Ramezanzadeh, Chairman of the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI), was released today, October 23, 2018, on a bail of 100 million tomans [approximately $7,000 USD] pending trial.

Ramezandzadeh was arrested October 14th in the northeastern city of Bojnourd, amid two-day-long general strikes of Iran’s teaching community. CCTSI had called for the strike to protest the low compensation grade of teachers.

Strikers also demanded the release of their still-imprisoned colleagues, including Mohammad Habibi, Esmaeil Abdi, and Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi.