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.

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.

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.

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.