Azerbaijani Activist Mohammad Khakpour Summoned to Ardabil Prosecutor’s Office

Posted on: November 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Azerbaijani activist Mohammad Khakpour received a writ dated November 14th, ordering him under threat of arrest to appear at Branch 1 of the Ardabil Investigation and Prosecution Office within the next five days.

Khakpour was among a group of Ardabil residents arrested for their participation in Azerbaijani cultural gatherings last July. Marking the season of annual crackdowns on these gatherings — which in recent years have gravitated to Babak Fort — at least 80 Azerbaijani activists were arrested that month. Khakpour was held in custody for three days.

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 annual commemorations held in the first week of July.

Crackdown on Azerbaijani Activists Veers to Violence

Posted on: November 1st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In their continued persecution of Azerbaijani activists, security forces attempting to extract confessions have reportedly battered two of them severely, landing one in the hospital with broken ribs and injured fingers.

Without explanation, agents arrested Nasim Sadeghi and Hakimeh Ahmadi within three days of each other in late October 2018, and sources close to both women report that they have since been subjected to beatings. In a video he published October 30th, Ahmadi’s husband Gholamreza Ghorbani related the news of her injuries and hospital transfer, explaining that authorities had refused to disclose where she had been admitted, forbade him from visiting, and advised him that pending treatments would be at his expense. Sadeghi, who was transferred from an IRGC intelligence detention center to Tabriz Central Prison on October 29th, confirmed on a phone call with her family that authorities were applying brute-force coercion to make her own up to their allegations, threatening to arrest her children and her sister’s children if she didn’t confess.

Security forces arrested Ahmadi on October 18th after inspecting her home and threatening her and Ghorbani with a close-combat weapon; Sadeghi was taken by security forces on her walk home October 21st.

Though Sadeghi and Ahmadi were not told the reasons behind their arrests, an assistant in Branch 19 of the revolutionary and general prosecutor’s office recently explained Sadeghi her charges: “propaganda against the regime through anti-regime news activity in cyberspace.” Initially offered bail during an October 25th court appearance, Sadeghi was kept in custody when security forces objected to her release.

Sadeghi was finally released Wednesday, October 31st on a bail of 150 million tomans [approximately $3,500 USD]. As of the date of this report, Ahmadi’s location and charges are still unknown.

Both Ahmadi and Sadeghi have previous arrests on their records. Ahmadi was detained this past September and released on a bail of one billion Rials [approximately $7,000 USD]. On July 28, 2016, Sadeghi was among dozens arrested for their participation in a public protest against controversial comments published in the newspaper Tarh-e No. She was interrogated for five days in the Intelligence Detention Center of Tabriz for charges of “acting against national security through propaganda against the regime,” brought by Branch 7 of the Prosecutor’s Interrogation Office of Tabriz Revolutionary Court. She was released on a bail of 1 billion IRR [approximately $8000 USD] pending trial.

Azerbaijani activists have felt the pressure of intensified security controls in recent months. Rahman Ghasemi and Abolfazl Fakouri, recently arrested in Tabriz for unknown reasons and transferred to undisclosed locations, are two more among many who have been unceremoniously swept up.

Ghasemi, an Urmia resident, was summoned and interrogated by Urmia security forces this past September. On July 7th, he was arrested amid security crackdowns on an Azerbaijani cultural gathering at Babak Fort and released four days later.

Per a recent announcement, the appeals hearing of Azerbaijani activist Kiumars Eslami, also arrested and charged for his presence at Babak Fort, will take place November 17th at 10 a.m. in Branch 1 of Ardebil Appeals Court. Eslami’s cultural activism — including his membership in the Parsabad county Pan-Turkic movement and translation of Persian-language books into Azerbaijani — have earned him accusations from authorities of being “sectarian” and propagandizing against the regime.

Tabriz is the capital of the northwestern province of Eastern Azerbaijan, which borders the Republic of Azerbaijan and is home to Iran’s Azerbaijani ethnic minority. 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 annual commemorations held in the first week of July.

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”.

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.

Three Azerbaijani Activists Taken into Custody

Posted on: September 6th, 2018

Update: On September 6th, Ulduz Ghasemi was released on a bail of 500 million rials (approximately $4,000 USD).

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Ulduz Ghasemi, Rahman Ghasemi, and Sahand Ma’ali, Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activists from the cities of Urmia and Sarab, were apprehended today by local security forces.

Ulduz Ghasemi and Rahman Ghasemi had previously been summoned by security agents of Urmia’s Noh Pele Quarter and interrogated there by security forces. While both Ulduz and Rahman were summoned and interrogated, only Ulduz was taken into custody.

A credible source told HRANA that plainclothes forces went to Ulduz’s mother’s house, seizing a number of books, a laptop, and a mobile phone. According to the source, Ulduz and Rahman were interrogated for visiting relatives of one of those killed in protests that took place in Azerbaijan in 2006.

Ulduz was also among a number of activists arrested on May 26th of this year in the West Azerbaijan province, in connection to their participation in a commemoration gathering at Naqade County’s Golzaar cemetery. The gathering was in honor of those who had died in the 2006 protests.

Both Ulduz and Rahman were later arrested again after taking part in the Babak Fort celebrations on July 7th of this year. They were released five days later.

Meanwhile, Sahand Ma’ali faces a 10-month suspended prison sentence from the Revolutionary Court of Sarab County. Presided by Mehdi Shams, the court convicted Ma’ali of “Propaganda against the regime.” Ma’ali was among a group of regional activists who were arrested at Fort Babak gatherings on July 6.

Fort Babak, a monument built during the pre-Islamic Sassanian period, is named after Babak Khorramdin, known for leading 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.

Evin Prosecutors Summon Azerbaijani Activist Jafar Rostamirad in Connection to Babak Fort Gathering

Posted on: August 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Jafar Rostamirad, an Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activist, has been summoned by Branch 7 of the Prosecutor’s Office, based in Tehran’s Evin Prison, for the last round of his defense statement. He has been given five days to go to the Prosecutor’s Office, a credible source told HRANA.

Rostamirad was arrested on July 2nd by plainclothes security forces in Tehran who did not present a warrant. His arrest was in connection with the Babak Fort gathering that occurred on the same day. After spending seven days in solitary confinement, he was sent to Ward 209 of Evin Prison and charged with “Propaganda against the regime”. He was released on bail on July 31st.

From the *Babak Fort arrests on July 2nd, Ebrahim Noori, an Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activist, is the only one who remains in prison. He is held in Ward 209 of Evin Prison.

Rostamirad had previously been arrested on February 21, 2015, after taking part in a private meeting to commemorate International Mother Language Day.

*Babak Fort, a monument built during the pre-Islamic Sassanian period, is named after Babak Khorramdin, known for leading an uprising against the Abbasid caliphate in 893. In recent years, it has become a place of symbolic gatherings for Azerbaijani activists, especially during the annual commemorations in the first week of July.

Azerbaijani Activist Released While Another Remains in Prison

Posted on: August 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRANA) – Ebrahim Noori, an Azerbaijani activist from the city of Ahar who was arrested during the Babak Fort gatherings on July 2 and sent to Ward 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison continues to be held after almost 40 days. Mr Noori is reportedly banned from contacting his family.

A source close to Mr Noori told HRANA that Mr Noori was only allowed to speak to his brother on the phone “for a few seconds”.

Born in 1991 in the city of Ahar, Mr Noori was previously convicted twice of “Acting against national security by waging propaganda against the regime.” He had received a combined suspended sentence of 16 months.

Babak Fort, a monument built during the pre-Islamic Sassanian period, is named after Babak Khorramdin, known for leading an uprising against the Abbasid caliphate in 893. In recent years, it has become a place of symbolic gatherings for Azerbaijani activists, especially during the annual commemorations in the first week of July.

Kiyomars Eslami, another Azerbaijani activist, was also arrested during the same annual gatherings. He was reportedly released on bail on August 9th.

Mr Eslami, who hails from the city of Moqan, was released on Thursday after a month in Moqan Prison. He posted a bail worth 120 million rials. He was arrested on July 4 and suffered bleeding in the head after he was beaten by Iranian authorities during interrogations. Mr Eslami had gone on a nine-day hunger strike which he began on July 28 in protest to the prison conditions and his unclear situation.

Ebrahim Noori is the only individual who remains detained from those who were arrested in connection to the Babak Fort gatherings.