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.

Judge Denies Sahand Ma’ali’s Objection to Absentia Sentence

Posted on: October 6th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Judge Mehdi Shams of Sarab Revolutionary Court in East Azerbaijan Province has overruled Sahand Ma’ali’s objection to his 10-month prison sentence ruled in absentia.

Per Iranian law, defendants sentenced in absentia have the right to bypass appeals court by objecting to trial court rulings. Now that Ma’ali’s objection has been denied, he has twenty days to file his dissent as an appeal with East Azerbaijan Appeals Court.

Ma’ali was initially convicted of “propaganda against the regime through the promotion of ethnic groups with the aim of inviting people to the Babak Fort gathering” after his arrest at a gathering of Azerbaijani activists on July 6th of this year. He was later released on bail.

Fort Babak, a monument built during the pre-Islamic Sasanian period, is the namesake of Babak Khorramdin, who led an uprising against the Abbasid caliphate in 893. In recent years, it has become a place of symbolic gathering for Azerbaijani activists, especially during the annual commemorations in the first week of July.

Ma’ali has a prior record with Iranian judicial authorities dating back to July 2nd, 2012 when security forces raided his residence and arrested him following inspections of his father’s home. They confiscated some of his belongings, including his personal computer, after forcing him to open his shop to another search and seizure. In July 2013, he was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime”.

Appeals Court Upholds Conviction of Azerbaijani Activist

Posted on: October 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The three-year prison sentence of Azerbaijani activist Hossein Ali Mohammadi Alvar has been upheld by Judge Bahloul Alizadeh of East Azerbaijan Province Appeals Court Branch 3. Mohammadi Alvar is a resident of Tabriz in northwestern Iran, home to the country’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority.

An informed source confirmed news of the appeals decision to HRANA and elaborated on Mohammadi Alvar’s charges: two years in prison for insulting the Supreme Leader, and one year in prison for propaganda against the regime.

The appeals verdict confirmed the initial sentence issued to Mohammadi Alvar in Branch 2 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court. The same appeals court upheld the same sentence on the same charges four years ago, in connection to a different case file initially tried in Tabriz Revolutionary Court Branch 3. Pursuant to the 2014 ruling, security agents apprehended Mohammadi Alvar March 1, 2015, transferring him to Tabriz Central Prison to begin serving his sentence.

Authorities began developing a rap sheet on Mohammadi Alvar on September 12, 2013, when he and Farzad Mahdavi were arrested by security agents at a match of the Tabriz-based soccer club “Tractor Sazi.” Both Mohammadi Alvar and Mahdavi spent a day in detention before posting bail and going free.

Two months later, on November 4th, 2013, Tabriz security agents would arrest Mohammadi Alvar a second time, along with his fellow Azerbaijani activist Taha Kermani. Mohammadi Alvar and Kermani spent nearly 6 months in Tabriz Central prison before being released on bail. The corollary 10-year prison sentence issued to Mohammadi Alvar and Kermani in Revolutionary Court Branch 3 was later reduced to 2 years in appeals court.

In July 2015, Amnesty International issued a statement expressing concern that Mohammadi Alvar and Kermani’s 10-year sentence was “unjustified” and “politically motivated.” Amnesty said the men were convicted on the basis of confessions extracted under torture, which constituted a violation of human rights. They urged authorities to order an impartial investigation of the men’s torture allegations, and that if the latter is proven true, to bring those responsible to justice.

Azerbaijani Activist Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison for Cultural Rally

Posted on: September 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Kiumars Eslami, an Azerbaijani activist arrested during the July 4th Azerbaijani rallies at Babak Fort, has been sentenced to one year in prison by Judge Firooz Farahani Mazrae Jahan, on the charge of “propaganda against the regime.”

Babak Fort is a site in northwestern Iran, home to the country’s Azerbaijani minority group, that has gained popularity in recent years as an annual cultural rallying spot for Azerbaijani activists during the first week of July.

In justifying his verdict, the judge cited Eslami’s cultural and ‘separatist’ activities: “The defendant is one of the ethnic, separatist, and Pan-Turkic activists in Parsabad,” Jahan wrote. “In order to carry out this separatist activity, he prepares reports, translates Persian books into Turkish [In Persian, the Azerbaijani language is often referred to as Turkish], distorts them in cyberspace, and disseminates them to foreign networks associated with the opposition. He is a leader and a member of the sub-branches of the Pan-Turkic movement in Parsabad county.”

Another reason cited for Eslami’s conviction was his reference to Iran’s Azerbaijani provinces as “South Azerbaijan” in social media posts.

According to an informed source, the head of Parsabad’s intelligence office, known only as Hazrati, previously told Eslami that his case file would be closed if he announced on the news that he would cease his Azerbaijani-related activism and cut off contact with fellow activist Abbas Lasani, who was recently convicted of similar charges.

A native of Parsabad-e Moghan, also located in northwestern Iran, Eslami was previously held in Moghan Prison, where he reportedly sustained head wounds and bleeding during violent interrogations by Iranian authorities. He went on a nine-day hunger strike beginning July 28th to protest the prison conditions and his oppression in the judicial system. He was released on approximately $650 USD (120 million IRR) bail on August 9th.

Azerbaijani Activist Abbas Lasani Tried in Absentia

Posted on: September 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Monday, September 24th, Azerbaijani activist and former political prisoner Abbas Lasani was notified by text message that he has been sentenced in absentia.

On September 16, 2018, HRANA reported on Lasani’s response to his summons via SMS from Branch 2 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court. “Even ignoring the suspect intent of this summons, their delay in sending it, and the timing of the hearing on [the eve of the Muharram holidays]– it’s impossible to ignore that the summons is illegitimate, arriving by text message with no official hard copy,” Lasani had said. “Appropriate preparations can’t be made in these circumstances.”

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.

Lasani was presumably arrested for sharing a video in which he encouraged people to attend the gathering. He was released on bail of approximately $3,500 USD (500 million IRR) on July 11, 2018.

Lasani was among the first of more than 80 Azerbaijani activists arrested throughout Ardabil, West Azerbaijan, and East Azerbaijan provinces at the time of the Babak Fort gathering.

In a press release on August 11, 2018, Amnesty International called the arrests of Azerbaijani (Turk) people “arbitrary” and unlawful, and demanded the immediate release of all individuals detained for their participation in an Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gathering.

Azerbaijani Activist Abbas Lasani Spurns Text-Message Summons

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Abbas Lasani, an Azerbaijani activist and former political prisoner, will not be responding to the SMS he received from Branch 2 of Tabriz Revolutionary Court.

A resident of Ardabil in northwestern Iran–home to the country’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority–Lasani said that due to authorities’ spurious method of summoning him, he refused to attend the hearing scheduled for him on Tuesday, September 18th.

“Even ignoring the suspect intent of this summons, their delay in sending it, and the timing of the hearing on [the eve of the Muharram holidays]– it’s impossible to ignore that the summons is illegitimate, arriving by text message with no official hard copy,” Lasani said. “Appropriate preparations can’t be made in these circumstances.”

Lasani and three other Azerbaijani activists were first arrested by Intelligence agents on 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 $3,500 USD (500 million IRR) bail July 11, 2018.

Lasani was among the first of more than 80 Azerbaijani activists arrested throughout Ardabil, West Azerbaijan, and East Azerbaijan provinces at the time of the Babak Fort gathering.

Amnesty International issued a statement on August 5th 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.

Appeals Court Convenes for Seven Azerbaijani Activists

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Saturday, September 1, 2018, Branch 3 of the Appeals Court of the East Azerbaijan province convened to review the cases of seven Azerbaijani activists. Judge Alizadeh will preside over the appeals process.

Four of the activists – Akbar Aboulzadeh, Hamid Allahverdipour, Morteza Shokri, and Esrafil Fathollahzadeh – were present during the proceedings. The three others who were convicted – Saleh Molla Abbasi, Soleiman Kazemi, and Ebrahim Noori (detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison) – did not attend the court session.

The activists were arrested for their participation in public protests against the state-sponsored television series Fitileh in November 2015. Parts of the TV program were believed to contain material portraying Iran’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority in a derogatory light. In October 2017 they were sentenced to prison time in a four-page verdict issued by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Ahar (a city in northwestern Iran), on charges of “Assembly and collusion against national security through propagating against the regime”.

Saleh Molla Abbasi, Akbar Aboulzadeh, and Ebrahim Noori were each sentenced to ten months imprisonment, while Esrafil Fathollahzadeh, Hamid Allahverdipour, Morteza Shokri, and Soleiman Kazemi, were each sentenced to seven months imprisonment.

The Fitileh protests reportedly involved around 25 participants. While the rest of the participants were eventually acquitted, these seven were convicted and now await the result of their appeals.

Ebrahim Nouri’s Imprisonment begins in Evin’s Quarantine Ward

Posted on: August 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Ebrahim Nouri, an Azerbaijani civil rights activist from Ahar, has entered the first days of a six-month prison sentence for a case opened against him in 2016.

After being arrested during a gathering at Babak Fort, he was denied the right to post bail and imprisoned in Ward 209 of Evin Prison on July 2, 2018. An informed source told HRANA that Nouri contacted his family from Ward 209 at that time, informing them of the $29,000 USD bail set for him.

In July, HRANA reported on Ebrahim Nouri’s arrest by security forces at the Babak Fort gathering.

In a press release on August 11, 2018, Amnesty International called the recent arrests of Azeri people “arbitrary” and unlawful, and demanded the immediate release of Ebrahim Nouri and all other individuals detained for their participation in an Azerbaijani Turkic cultural gathering.

Stemming from a 2016 arrest, Nouri was sentenced by Branch 1 of the Criminal Court of Ahar to his current sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment, on a charge of “Propaganda against the regime”. In February 2018, this sentence was confirmed by Branch 26 of the Appeals Court of East Azerbaijan Province, under the supervision of Mikaeil Khoubiarpour.

Nouri, a law student, has a record of being detained for civic activities, beginning in 2005 when he was arrested and interrogated by an IRGC Intelligence unit. In 2009 he was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment, suspended over five years, on a charge of propaganda against the regime. He was arrested again by security forces on January 17, 2013, and released on a bail of approximately $24,000 USD five days later.

Azerbaijani Activist Hamid Saghati Released after Completing Prison Sentence

Posted on: August 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On August 26, 2018, Azerbaijani activist Hamid Saghati was released from Tabriz Prison after serving four months.

In June of 2016, HRANA published a report on the arrest and detention of Hamid Saghati and five others in the city of Ardabil. An informed source confirmed to HRANA that Saghati was among a group of six sentenced in November of the same year.

The others charged in the case were sentenced as follows: Babak Avand and Esmaeil Fakhimi, four months’ imprisonment; Mehdi Amirinejad, two years’ imprisonment; and Habib Sasanian, nine years’ imprisonment.

In late June 2016, the Head of the East Azerbaijan Judiciary called the group “members of the six-member GAMU spying team”.

Azerbaijani Activist Arrested and Transferred to Sarab Prison

Posted on: August 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Seyed Jamal Moosavinejad, an Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activist from the city of Sarab, was arrested by security forces on the morning of August 25th and taken to Sarab Prison to start his one-year sentence, a credible source told HRANA.

Last May, Moosavinejad was convicted of “Propagating against the regime in favor of partisan ethnic and separatist groups” which led to a suspended prison sentence of one year. Branch 26 of the East Azerbaijan Appeals Court, presided by Judge Mikayil Khoobyarpour, upheld the sentence.

The court cites the following activities as the reasoning behind Moosavinejad’s conviction: issuing statements on social media; reflecting anti-regime and ethnic activities in foreign media; respecting and kissing of a flag belonging to an alien country due to ethnic beliefs in contravention of the Islamic Republic of Iran; praising the Azerbaijani events of 1945 and praising their founder, Jafar Pishevari; confessing to engaging in ethnic activities on Telegram.

Moosavinejad had also been charged with “Insulting the Supreme Leader” but was acquitted of that count.

Seyed Jamal Moosavinejad was first arrested in February after security forces raided his house. His phone, laptop, books and papers were confiscated at the time. He was released on a four billion rial [apprximately $40,000 USD] bail. According to Moosavinejad, he was insulted and humiliated by security forces throughout the process of arrest, being charged, and the initial court and appeals hearings. Furthermore, he had previously been arrested in Sarab in the summer of 2012, together with several other citizens.