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.

Appeals Court Fines Poet and Filmmaker in Connection with 2016 Instagram Post

Posted on: September 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Bektash Abtin, a poet, filmmaker, and former board member of the Iranian Writers Guild, was fined $1,200 USD (5 million IRR) on a charge of “propaganda against the regime” for a photo he posted on Instagram in 2016.

The above order is an appeal of his June sentencing, in Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court of Karaj, to three months of forced labor in the State Welfare Office in addition to the 5 million IRR fine.

When police raided a memorial service at Imamzadeh Saleh shrine in Karaj in November 2016, Abtin snapped a photo of his comrade’s injuries and published it to Instagram. The service was intended to commemorate writers Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, victims of serial murders in December 1998 that were suspected to be the work of Iranian government operatives.

Security forces stormed the memorial service, which quickly devolved into a violent clash. In attempts to protect 75-year-old civilian Fatemeh Sarhadizadeh from harm, Mazdak Zarafshan sustained severe injuries to his face. Abtin, Zarafshan, and a number of fellow attendees–including Mohammad Mehdipour, Naser Zarafshan, and Reza Akvaniyan–were subsequently taken into custody.

(subphoto text: image of Mazdak Zarafshan after he was beaten by the security forces. Baktash Abtin published this image on his Instagram account.)

After his release, Abtin published photographic evidence of Zarafshan’s injuries to his social media account, inciting Karaj prosecutors to accuse him of “propaganda against the regime” and open up a case file against him.

This is not the first entry on Abtin’s rap sheet. Pursuant to a lawsuit from fellow writer and Writer’s Guild board member Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Abtin was previously charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “publishing an illegal journal”. At the time of Mahabadi’s accusations against him, security forces stormed both of their homes and confiscated their personal property.

In 2015, Abtin was interrogated for three consecutive days by intelligence officers, who reportedly drilled him about his films, his membership in the Iranian Writers Guild, and his participation in the 2009 post-election protests.

Bektash Abtin, born in 1974, is a poet and documentary filmmaker who in 2014 was elected along with four other colleagues to the board of the Iranian Writers Guild. He previously served as secretary of the Guild for one term and as officer of the Guild’s Managing Committee for two terms. In the 2018 Guild elections, he was elected as one of the group’s financial auditors. A number of his documentaries have been screened at international festivals, including “13 October 1937,” a documentary about Iranian musician and orchestra conductor Loris Cheknavarian; “Ansor,” a documentary about censorship; and “Homayun Khorram,” a documentary about the famed Iranian musician of that name. He has also published a number of poetry books, including “When My Foot Was Clubbed It Wrote ‘Let’s Go Back,”; “My Lashes Have Stitched My Eyes Shut”; “Sledgehammer”; “A Lonely Birth Certificate”; and “The Ancestor of my Inner Ape.”

Mazdak Zarafshan and Bektash Abtin Released on the Bail

Posted on: January 13th, 2017

HRANA News Agency – On December 4, Mazdak Zarafshan and Bektash Abtin who had been arrested during the anniversary of the victims of serial murders, were released on the bail.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), on December 4, Mazdak Zarafshan and Bektash Abtin were released on the bail. (more…)

Participants in Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammadjafar Poyandeh’s Anniversary Beaten and Arrested

Posted on: January 13th, 2017

HRANA News Agency – According to the reports the anniversary of Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammadjafar Poyandeh, the victims of serial murders, has been along with violence by the security forces and at least two persons remain in detention.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), on November 2, 2016, a number of security officers interfered the anniversary of Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammadjafar Poyandeh in Taher shrine in Karaj and did not even allow people to enter. (more…)