Mohammad Najafi and Abbas Safari Arrested to Serve Their Sentences

Posted on: October 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On the morning of October 28, 2018, attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi and civil activist Abbas Safari were arrested and transferred to Arak Prison to serve their sentences the same evening.

Both men were previously detained along with nine others for participating in the January protests in Shazand County. Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi of Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102 sentenced both Najafi and Safari to three years in prison and 74 lashings for “publishing lies with intent to disrupt the public mind” and “disturbing the public peace.” The sentences were upheld in branch one of Markazi province Appeals Court.

Najafi got wind of his new “publishing lies” accusation via a writ he received October 13th from branch 1 of Shazand Investigation and Prosecutions office, where he was interrogated and ultimately charged for it.

Both Najafi and Safari have additional charges pending investigation in the Revolutionary Court of Arak.

Najafi was previously detained for inquiring into the death of civilian Vahid Heydari, who died in Police Detention Center No. 12 amid the January protests. Najafi challenged Iranian judicial authorities who had claimed Heydari was a drug dealer that committed suicide while in custody. Najafi’s interviews with Heydari’s loved ones suggest that Heydari was a street peddler with no criminal record, whose autopsy report showed none of the typical markers of suicide, but did indicate head injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma.

Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi accused security authorities of fabricating the grounds for Najafi’s case, arguing that Najafi had simply proven that Heydari was not a drug dealer.

Safari, age 41, married, unemployed, is a resident of Shazand County who until his arrest on Sunday had been free on bail.

Arak and Shazand are located in Markazi Province, south of Tehran.

Iran: An Overview of Human Rights Abuses September – October 2018

Posted on: October 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – The following is an overview of human rights violations in Iran between September 23rd and October 22, 2018, per information compiled and verified by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI).

Domestic restrictions in Iran on independent human rights reporting make it difficult to capture the full extent of these issues on the ground. The following overview draws on the work of HRANA reporters, as well as a network of independent and verifiable sources, including other human rights associations operating outside Iran’s borders.

Summary

Human rights violations continued all across the country over the past month, and included, but were not limited to: executions, child abuse, mass arrests, violation of prisoners’ rights, violation of freedom of expression, labor abuses, and unchecked environmental pollution.

Death Penalty

Capital punishment remains the most egregious violation of human rights in Iran. On October 10th — the World Day against the Death Penalty — the Center of Statistics at HRAI published its annual report to sensitize the public about the situation of the death penalty in Iran. The report provides statistics about executions carried out in this country between October 10, 2017, and October 9, 2018.

More than 25 citizens, including a juvenile offender, were executed in the last month (between September 23rd and October 22, 2018). More than 20 individuals, including a juvenile offender, were sentenced to death. Four people were executed in public.

HRANA was able to identify or gather details about death row prisoners, including a former member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Arsalan Khodkam, the ex-spouse of Leila Tajik, Hedayat Abdollahpour and three individuals convicted of financial crimes. New details on the executions of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were also reported during this period.

Freedom of Thought and Expression

Freedoms of thought and expression were also widely restricted over the past 30 days.

Arrests: Arrestees in this category included a Shiraz city council member, Ahmad Alinejad and his wife, at least 20 residents of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, writer and Mashad resident Abbas Vahedian, Zahra Majd in Isfahan, and six individuals involved in the Freedom Movement of Iran, arrested in Nain (near Isfahan).

Convictions: Leila Mir-Ghaffari was sentenced to 2 years in prison, Ejlal Ghavami to 8 months, Hassan Abbasi to 35 months (five 7-months prison terms), an Arak resident to 1 year and 30 lashings, Hamidreza Amini to 11 years. Women who protested this past August were sentenced from 6 months to 1 year in prison, Mohammad Mahdavifar was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months, a dual-nationality defendant faces 8 years and 6 months in prison, Soheil Arabi faces 3 years in prison, 3 years in exile, and a fine; the prison sentence of Abdolreza Ghanbari was increased to 15 years, Alireza Moeinian was sentenced to 8 months in prison; a new 6-month sentence extended the prison term of Saeed Shirzad through 2020; six Arak residents arrested amid the January protests were collectively sentenced to a total of 6 years in prison and 444 lashings, and a group of political activists in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province were sentenced to exile and prison terms ranging from 8 to 18 years.

Eleven civil activists, including Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri, and Abbas Safari were sentenced to 3 years in prison and 74 lashings. Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou and Mohammad Torabi were sentenced to 1 year in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Kian Sadeghi faces 3 years in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Morteza Nazari was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison, 2 years of exile, and a fine; Zahra Zare Seraji, on the same convictions, to 8 years in prison and a fine. Their co-defendants Ali Kabirmehr and Ali Bazazadeh were both sentenced to 13 years in prison and exile.

Summons: Hamid Farrokhnezhad, Parastoo Salehi, a number of reformist political activists, Tehran city council member Kazem Imanzadeh, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, and Mohammad Najafi were all summoned by courts and the Ministry of Intelligence.

Censorship: The weekly magazines “Nabze Bazaar” and “Paytakht Kohan,” as well as the website “EntekhabKhabar,” were convicted in press court. Courts also issued indictments for the Chief Executive Officers of “Shargh” and “Shahrvand” newspapers for their reporting on sexual tourism. The National Front of Iran was prevented from holding its Central Council meeting in Tehran, a journalist was beaten by Qazvin municipal agents, and a Kurdish student was barred from education, presumably for his political affiliations.

Prisoners’ Rights
Prisoners are rarely protected from cruel and unusual punishments, and their rights to proper nutrition, hygiene, and medical treatment are systematically violated. A few of these victims are detailed below by category of violation.

Raids and beatings: Prison agents punched Arash Sadeghi on his cancer surgery site; Urmia prison authorities attacked political prisoners and injured them severely, inciting them to hunger strike by the dozens; another Urmia prisoner was assaulted; a prisoner was beaten and injured by Rajai Shahr Prison personnel; Bandar Abbas Prison authorities broke an inmate’s fingers; an Urmia prisoner suffered a TBI after a beating by authorities; and prisoners were forcefully undressed and beaten in Zahedan Prison.

Withholding of medical treatment: A prisoner died after being denied medical care in Zahedan Prison. Farhad Meysami, Arash Sadeghi, and a prisoner in Sanandaj were also denied medical treatment.

Going without: Dozens of Gachsaran prisoners launched protests and hunger strikes in opposition to prison conditions. Six Gonabadi Dervish prisoners continued in an ongoing hunger strike. Reza Sigarchi, also in an act of protest, refused food and medicine in Great Tehran Penitentiary, while 8 Gonabadi Dervishes at the same penitentiary and 8 Baha’i prisoners of Karaj disappeared off of the administrative radar for 30 days. Houshmand Alipour was denied access to an attorney. Three prisoners in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison were blocked from receiving visits, and the fate of sequestered labor activist and Sanandaj resident Zanyar Dabbaghian was still unknown.

Three prisoners attempted suicide in Zahedan, Urmia, and Saravan prisons. Local sources consistently impute prisoner suicides and suicide attempts to the violence and oppression of prison life.

Religious and Ethnic Minorities

Religious and ethnic minorities remained under threat and consistent judicial pressures this past month.

Baha’is: Eight Baha’i citizens were arrested in Baharestan (near Isfahan), four were arrested in Karaj, one of whom had his business forcibly shut down, and three were arrested in Shiraz.
[Some of these arrests reflect coordinated or group arrests, and linked articles will reflect that information overlap].
A Baha’i resident of Yazd who had been blocked from pursuing education was fired from work for their faith, and the parents of a Baha’i prisoner were temporarily detained following a search of the prisoner’s home.

Sunnis: Five Sunni scholars were sequestered for hours in the Zahedan-Khash road patrol office. Three Baluchi citizens, who are scholars of the Ghalamouei seminary, were arrested in Sirik County (southern Iran). Sunni scholars expressed outcry over the public statements of a soccer player they alleged to be disparaging of Sunni sanctities.

Six members of the Yamani Religious Group in Izeh County were also arrested, presumably for their beliefs.

Ethnic minorities: Arab citizens were arrested, and are still being arrested en masse in wake of the Ahvaz Parade Attack. HRANA is still in the process of confirming the identifies of the arrestees, which according to local reports number into the hundreds. Other arrests suspected to be ethnically discriminatory include Nasim Sadeghi, Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh, Mojtaba Parvin, Ebrahim Divazi, as well as residents of Ilam, Ahvaz, Marivan, Urmia, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Saqqez, Pevah, Oshnavieh, and Sardasht.

News emerged on the convictions of Abbas Lasani, Kiumars Eslami, Eghbal Ahmadpour, Keyvan Olyali, Hossein Ali Mohammadi Alvar, as well as defendants in Sanandaj, Urmia, Kamyaran, and two detainees of the Afrin battles in Syria. Turkic activist Javad Ahmadi Yekanli was summoned by county security police in the city of Khoy.

Children’s Rights

Children are among the most vulnerable to human rights abuses in Iran. Over the past month, four wrongful child deaths were reported in the cities of Tehran, Falavarjan (Isfahan Province), Qaem Shahr (Mazandaran province) and (Isfahan Province).

The national director of Iran’s social emergency hotline said that 30% of reports called into the center are flagging some form of “domestic violence,” 30% of which turn out to be child abuse cases. Of this 30%, 50% were related to educational negligence, 30% to physical abuse, 15% to psychological abuse, and 4% to sexual abuse of children.

Maryam Sedighi, deputy director of the social welfare department of Alborz Province, said that 12% of “123” social emergency calls made in Alborz — i.e. an average of 40 calls per month — are child abuse reports.

Reports indicate the rape of a young girl by her father in Tehran; a boxing coach accused of raping his teenage student; a father pouring boiling water over his 7-year-old daughter in Genaveh, Bushehr Province; and a teacher using corporal punishment on a pupil in Kazeroon, Fars Province.

Three juvenile suicides were also reported: one student in Rigan County, Kerman Province, and two teenage girls, aged 14 and 16, in the cities of Abadan and Sanandaj.

The Iranian education system allocates fewer and fewer resources to its pupils, and educational facilities across the country — particularly in rural or underprivileged areas — can be found in varying states of wear and disrepair. One pupil in Razan, Hamadan province was injured in the chest, neck, and shoulders when he was caught in falling debris of a school wall that suddenly collapsed. The Razan director of education said that he is currently stable, but will require surgery.

Elementary-school student Donya Veisi of Garmash village, Kurdistan Province, fell victim to her own school’s disrepair when one of the walls surrounding her school yard collapsed, killing her. Later — amid allegations that Donya had in fact been raped and killed — the Kurdistan Prosecutor verbally engaged to investigate the matter.

Women

The question of women’s rights at sporting events gained heightened public attention this past month when, under pressure from FIFA to permit their entry into stadiums, a select number of Iranian women (most of them family members of players and federation employees) were finally allowed to witness a kickoff in person (Iran vs. Bolivia). Authorities’ exclusive selection criteria were highly criticized.

Meanwhile, Shiraz-based activist Maryam Azad was arrested by security forces at a Tehran Airport as she was leaving the country for Turkey.

The managing director of the office of forensic medicine in Kohkiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province indicated that, of the 429 domestic violence crimes recorded in his office over the past 6 months, 404 were incidents of violence by husbands against their wives.

Additional cases of violence against women included a man’s murder of his ex-wife when he failed to meet “mehrieh” obligations [a type of alimony settlement], and the circumstances surrounding one woman’s decision to set herself on fire in Mashad.

Two women, long hounded by the judiciary for participating in a rally on International Women’s Day, were recently acquitted of their charges.

Laborers and Guilds

This past month was rythmed by strikes, sit-ins, and rallies organized by guilds and employees across sectors who demanded more secure working conditions.

Commercial Transport: This past month, truck drivers in Iran went on a nationwide strike for the third time [in 12 months]. Over the course of their 20-day strike, at least 261 striking drivers in 19 different provinces were arrested and threatened with heavy sentences, including the death penalty. Strikers’ demands did make significant headway: after years of guild activism, the High Council of Transportation Coordination approved a new freight transport measurement rate known as the tonne-kilometre (tkm) method, which was among the most pressing demands of truck drivers. Despite this partial victory, the fates of the 261 detained protesters are still unknown.

Education: Six Educator-Activists who participated in demonstrations May 10th were sentenced to 9 months in prison and 74 lashings. Also reported was the conviction of schoolteacher and University of Tehran student Ruhollah Mardani, who was arrested earlier this year in connection to nationwide protests. Five teachers were summoned by the Bureau of Public Places in Saqqez.

Following a call to strike by the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI), Iranian teachers staged sit-ins [on October 14th and 15th] to demand more liveable salaries and justice for their persecuted colleagues. Strike activity was recorded across the provinces of Kerman, Lorestan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Kurdistan, Alborz, Hamadan, Fars, Zanjan, Qom, Mazandaran, Tehran, North Khorasan, Ilam, East and West Azerbaijan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Bushehr, Gilan and Hormozgan.

Merchants: Merchants went on strike against the many interconnected symptoms of Iran’s current recession, including unstable exchange rates, inflation, rising prices, and unemployment. Merchant strikes went on for two consecutive days in the cities of Karaj, Shahreza, Shahriar, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Tabriz and Sarab.

Two street vendors were reportedly beaten by municipal agents in Qazvin and Gorgan.

Health and Environment:

Five environmental activists arrested 8 months ago have been indicted with charges of “corruption on earth,” which can carry the death penalty.

Intelligence agents halted a group of environmental journalists, including Javad Heydarian, before they could board a flight to Germany for work. Their passports were confiscated.

Public concern over pollution and waste issues is ballooning, and [many citizens are critical of the government’s inaction in face of myriad threats to the public health].

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iranian Ministry of the Interior, Iranians surpass the worldwide average of daily waste production (300 grams) by a whopping 400 grams every day.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency of Miandoab (West Azerbaijan Province) announced that contamination of the Zarrinehroud River from the city’s sugar factory, coupled with poor ecological management of the river and its dam system, has caused thousands of fish to die in the river.

High levels of air pollution were reported this month in the cities of Kerman, Mahshahr, Ramshir, Rigan, and the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman.

Cultural Rights and Censorship

A number of photographers from Shiraz faced persecution for their instagram activity this month [which was cited as “improper”].

Two cultural directors from Sistan and Baluchestan province were summoned to the Intelligence office for attempting to host a peaceful community celebration.

Pending content modifications and the resolution of charges against the Home Video Entertainment Network, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned distribution of the network’s TV series “13 Shomali” (Northern 13), which previously aired on Saturdays.

Military and Law-Enforcement Power Abuses

Several citizens were killed as a result of power abuses and negligence by security forces this past month.

Police car chases, inappropriate shootings by border authorities, and authorities’ failure to warn civilians of road barriers led to 2 civilian injuries and 5 civilian deaths in Iranshahr (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), Jask (Hormozgan Province) and Azadshahr (Golestan Province) and Razavi Khorasan.

Security forces reportedly assaulted fuel vendors in Saravan (Sistan and Baluchestan Province).

More than a dozen “Kulbars” [laborers who make their living carrying goods across border areas] were wounded and killed across the country, namely in Sardasht (West Azerbaijan Province), Piranshahr (West Azarbaijan Province), Urmia (West Azerbaijan Province) Nowsud (Kermanshah Province), Marivan and Baneh (Kurdistan Province) and Ilam (Ilam province).

A prisoner in Urmia was sentenced to hand amputation, and a robbery convict was dealt 74 lashes in public in the Zeberkhan Rural District (Nishapur County, Razavi Khorasan Province).

__________________________________________________________________________

The above-cited reports are only a few examples of dismally more widespread trends. Their mention in this overview by no means implies their significance over those incidents which went unreported, due to tight restrictions on investigative journalists on the ground.

Among available reports of human rights abuses, however, some are more oft-cited due to their sensitive nature or predominating presence in public opinion. It bears mention that all human rights abuses are worthy of the news coverage and social media activism that has come to the aid of so relatively few. Bearing in mind their roles as public opinion influencers, social media activists and human rights reporters must be wary not to underlie existing human rights abuses with unintentional discrimination in their reporting.

Appeals Court Finalizes Sentences for 11 January Protest co-Defendants

Posted on: October 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – In connection to the January protests, Branch 1 of Markazi Province Appeals Court confirmed the imprisonment-and-lashings sentence of four citizens, suspending similar sentences for seven co-defendants on the same case. The defendants were identified as Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri, Abbas Safari, Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou, Mohammad Torabi, and Kian Sadeghi.

The Prosecutor’s Office settled on a charge of “disrupting the public peace through participation in an illegal gathering,” which according to HRANA reports incurred one year of imprisonment and 74 lashings per defendant in Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102, presided by Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi.

Their sentence allows for detention time already served to be counted towards their pending prison terms, a particular boon to Najafi, Bagheri, Safari, and Sadeghi who received two additional years of prison time for “publishing lies with intent to disrupt the public mind.” Bagheri’s prison term was further compounded by another six months for “insulting a police chief in cyberspace.”

Among the accused is attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi, who said in a note, “Branch 1 of Markazi Province has upheld the initial verdict. The maximum punishment of three years in prison and 74 lashings […] remains unchanged for me and Messrs. Bagheri and Safari, while the sentences for the rest of those convicted, including my six clients, were suspended over five years.”

Discovery into these protestors’ case files began March 13, 2018, in Branch One of Arak Investigation Court, by which point all 11 had already been interrogated by the Intelligence Office. Ten of the eleven were present during discovery, where an investigator deliberated on charges from disrupting the peace to gathering and conspiring. Though all of the accused were detained amid the protest site in Shazand city where all of them are residents, authorities inexplicably forwarded their case to the judicial office of Arak. All denied the charges brought against them.

Independent of the January protests case file, Najafi, Bagheri, Safari, Ajilou, and Bakhshi all have individual cases pending in the Revolutionary Court of Arak.

After several delays due to the absence of a judge, Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102 tried Najafi June 9, 2018, in for his inquiries into the death of civilian Vahid Heydari, who passed away while in custody of Arak authorities amid the January protests. While Iranian judicial authorities had claimed Heydari was a drug dealer who committed suicide in Police Detention Center No. 12, Najafi’s field research concluded that Heydari was a peddler with no criminal record, whose autopsy report was suspicious for blunt-force trauma. When Najafi was arrested for his investigations, Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi spoke out in his defense.

A large number of participants in recent protests, referred to as the January protests, were detained and interrogated across the country. The protests resulted in the death of 25 individuals and the detention of around five thousand. Ministry of the Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli previously stated that public demonstrations “turned violent” in 40 of the 100 cities where the January protests broke out.

Arak January Protestors Sentenced to Imprisonment and Lashings

Posted on: October 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Six Arak residents arrested amid the January protests were sentenced to one year in prison and 74 lashes each for “disrupting the public peace through participation in an illegal gathering” in Arak’s Criminal Court No.2, Branch 102. The defendants’ sentences allow for detention already served to be counted towards their pending prison terms.

Lawyer and civil rights activist Mohammad Najafi told HRANA that, barring any new infractions, only one of the defendants will actually be serving his time. “One of [the defendants], grocer Hossein Agha Alidadi, did not appeal his initial sentence of one year in prison and 74 lashes, and that sentence was finalized. He had also been accused of espionage but was acquitted of that charge. Five others who requested an appeal had their sentences suspended by the Appeals Court of Markazi Province.”

As of the date of this report, the identities of those five others have yet to be confirmed.

In July of this year, 11 residents detained in Shazand city in connection to the January protests, including Mohammad Najafi, were tried and sentenced to imprisonment and lashings in Arak Criminal Court No.2, Branch 102, presided by Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) explicitly prohibits inhumane and degrading punishments like lashings.

Five thousand people were detained and interrogated across the country in connection to nationwide demonstrations in January 2018 that came to be referred to as the “January protests.” These economic protests led to skirmishes with police forces and the deaths of 25 individuals. Of the January protests, Ministry of the Interior Rahmani Fazli said, “A number of protests took place in 100 Iranian cities; in forty of those cities, the protests turned violent.”

Activist Mohammad Najafi Charged with Visiting the Family of Ramin Hossein Panahi

Posted on: October 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi was charged with “spreading lies with intent to disrupt the public mind” after travelling to Iran’s Kurdish region to meet with the family of Ramin Hossein Panahi, a political prisoner who was recently executed.

Najafi confirmed to HRANA that he was read his charges in Branch 1 of Shazand’s General and Revolutionary Investigation Court on October 14th, pursuant to a summons he received the day before.

Though Shazand Criminal Court No. 2 recently opted not to suspend Najafi’s internet activity, he said more charges would be forthcoming against him for content he posted online.

Najafi was previously detained for inquiring into the death of civilian Vahid Heydari, who died in Police Detention Center No. 12 amid the January protests. Najafi challenged Iranian judicial authorities who had claimed Heydari was a drug dealer that committed suicide while in custody. Najafi’s interviews with Heydari’s loved ones suggest that Heydari was a street peddler with no criminal record, whose autopsy report showed none of the typical markers of suicide, but did indicate head injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma.

When news of Najafi’s situation reached Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi, he accused security forces of fabricating the grounds for his case, and defended Najafi by saying he had only gone as far as clearing Heydari’s name of a drug-dealing charge.

Najafi was detained in July 2018 along with 10 others who participated with him in the January protests in Shazand. The group was charged with “disturbing the public peace and spreading lies with intent to disrupt the public mind.” Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi of Criminal Court No. 2 Branch 102 of Arak, the provincial capital of Markazi Province, convicted and sentenced the group to three years of imprisonment and 74 lashes each.

The sentence is currently being appealed in hearings that began October 3rd in Markazi Province Appellate Court Branch 1.

Shazand is located in Markazi Province, central Iran.

Appeals Court Convenes for 11 January Protest Detainees

Posted on: October 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On Wednesday, October 3rd, Branch One of Markazi Province Appeals Court convened to review the sentences of 11 defendants charged in relation to the nationwide protests that broke out in January of 2018.

Among the accused is attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi, who stated that “economic problems” compelled him and his co-defendants to join the ranks of the January protestors. Najafi’s co-defendants are Ali Bagheri, Abbas Safari, Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou, Mohammad Torabi, and Kian Sadeghi.

Discovery into these protestors’ case file began March 13, 2018 in Branch One of Arak Investigation Court, by which point all 11 had already been interrogated by the Intelligence Office. Ten of the eleven were present during discovery, where an investigator deliberated on charges from disrupting the peace to gathering and conspiring. Though all of the accused were detained amid the protest site in Shazand city where all of them are residents, authorities inexplicably forwarded their case to the judicial office of Arak. All denied the charges brought against them.

Investigation court settled on a charge of “disrupting public peace through participating in an illegal gathering,” which according to HRANA reports incurred them one year of imprisonment and 74 lashings each, per the ruling of Judge Mohammad Reza Abdollahi in Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102.

Their sentence allows for detention time already served to be counted towards their pending prison terms, a particular boon to Najafi, Bagheri, Safari, and Sadeghi who received two additional years of prison time for “publishing lies with intent to disrupt the public mind.” Bagheri’s prison term was further compounded by another six months for “insulting a police chief in cyberspace.”

Independent of the January protests case file, Najafi, Bagheri, Safari, Ajilou, and Bakhshi all have individual cases pending in the Revolutionary Court of Arak.

Najafi was previously detained for inquiring into the death of civilian Vahid Heydari, who passed away while in custody of Arak authorities amid the January protests in Police Detention Center No. 12. While Iranian judicial authorities had claimed Heydari was a drug dealer who committed suicide during his detainment, Najafi’s field research, including interviews with Heydari’s family and friends, concluded that Heydari was a peddler with no criminal record; what’s more, his autopsy revealed no physical marks suspect for suicide. Buried under security supervision, Heydari had head injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma.

The court tried Najafi for his inquiries on June 9, 2018, in Arak Criminal Court No. 2, Branch 102. His hearing had previously been delayed due to the absence of the judge.

Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi accused security authorities of fabricating the grounds for Najafi’s case, arguing that Najafi had simply proven that Heydari was not a drug dealer.

A large number of participants in recent protests, referred to as the January protests, were detained and interrogated across the country. The protests resulted in the death of 25 individuals and the detention of around five thousand.

Ministry of the Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli previously stated that public demonstrations “turned violent” in 40 of the 100 cities where the January protests broke out.

Iran, an open-air prison for lawyers: A report

Posted on: September 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – This past week has seen a sharp increase in the arrests of lawyers in Iran, many among them specialists in defending civil rights, women’s rights, and human rights activists.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi shed light on this trend in an exchange with HRANA, stating that Iranian officials and its judiciary aim to create a climate of intimidation in which citizens find it easier to turn a blind eye to government abuses of power.

“[Authorities] prefer no one dare protest [their] unlawful actions,” Ebadi said.

She went on to note that arrests of lawyers not only put innocent people behind bars, but they also leave the lawyer’s clients–often prisoners of conscience and other political detainees–defenseless.

Ebadi drew on historical context to explain that authorities of the early Islamic Republic recognized legal scholars and independent lawyers as “nuisances,” or impediments to illicit activity, from the outset. This wariness on the part of the Iranian authorities led an appointee of the Judiciary to close the Iranian Bar Association for 18 years.

When authorities finally sanctioned elections for the Bar Association’s new board of directors, their permission roughly coincided with the passing of a law mandating all members be pre-approved by a Judiciary-controlled organ called the Disciplinary Court of Judges. Ebadi cites this filtering as the reason behind the Bar Association’s lack of autonomy, as it is known to refrain from advocating for its arrested members.

The following is a list of legal practitioners affected by this recent wave of repression.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer and human rights activist

Nasrin Sotoudeh was among the first lawyers arrested on June 13th of this year. She was arrested in her home and subsequently taken to Evin Prison.

According to lawyer Payam Derafshan, who was arrested himself on August 31st and has since been released, Sotoudeh is being held on three counts: a five-year sentence for espionage, which does not figure on her formal charge sheet; a lawsuit brought by a prosecutorial interrogator in the central Iranian city of Kashan; and an arrest order issued by Branch 2 of the Interrogations Unit.

The prosecutorial interrogator recently doubled down on his accusations against Sotoudeh, presenting new charges of “helping to form house churches,” “inciting the organization of a referendum,” and “attempts to organize gatherings.”

Sotoudeh declared hunger strike on August 25th to protest both her arrest and the judicial pressures being placed upon her family, relatives, and friends.

Abdolfatah Soltani, lawyer, activist, and human rights defender

Soltani’s September 10, 2011 arrest was followed by a sentence of 18 years in prison and a 20-year ban from the Iranian bar association. According to an Iranian court, his trespasses include his acceptance of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, statements he made to the media about his casework, and his role as co-founder of the Center for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR).

Soltani’s prison sentence was reduced to 13 years in an appeals court. Pursuant to the principle of concurrent sentences per Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, his sentence was reduced again to 10 years, and his 20-year Bar-association ban was reduced to two.

Years of enduring poor living conditions in prison, including being cut off from nutritious food and [potable] water, have taken a toll on Soltani: he now suffers from a host of health issues including broken teeth, anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, and [abnormal] blood pressure fluctuations.

The formal record of Soltani’s charges equates his human rights activities to “acting against national security.” Ten of the accusations being levelled against him are listed below:

1- Forming the illegal anti-security body CSHR
2- Giving interviews to counter-revolutionary media and foreign enemies
3- Acting against the regime on the pretext of human rights
4- Waging anti-regime psychological campaigns via published statements
5- Portraying Baha’i cult members as victims
6- Publishing human rights reports, all while cognizant of their adverse impact on Iranian national security and foreign politics and of their potential exploitation by the enemies of the revolution
7- Slandering the judiciary regarding testimonies extracted by torture and intimidation in prison
8- Disseminating disparaging news about the country and compromising public faith in the judiciary
9- Defending human rights cases and extremist clients on a pro bono basis
10-Anti-Islamic propagandizing and violating the principles of Islam by indiscriminately condemning execution sentences and implicitly rejecting the principle of Qesas [retribution] by calling it violent

While Soltani was in prison, his daughter Homa died of a heart attack on August 3rd at the age of 27. He was granted restricted furlough to attend her funeral.

Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Kaykhosravi, lawyers and human rights activists

On August 18th, a number of protestors were detained during a public demonstration before Tehran’s Parliament building in protest to both the Caspian Sea treaty and the vetting of election candidates by the Guardian Council. Three lawyers–Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi, Arash Kaykhosravi, and Masoud Javadieh–were among those detained.

Several arrestees were released within hours, and Javadieh was released on bail the following day. Sholeh-Saadi and Kaykhosravi, facing charges from Branch 5 of the Evin prosecutor’s office, were sent to Great Tehran Penitentiary.

On August 21st, Sholeh-Saadi and Kaykhosravi, were sent again to the Evin prosecutor’s office, shackled and in prison garb. They were read their charges (“gathering and collusion against national security”), issued a one-month arrest order, and returned to prison.

Sholeh-Saadi is a legal scholar and former member of parliament. He had previously been convicted and jailed for “insulting the Supreme Leader” in a letter he infamously published in 2002.

Kaykhosravi has taken on such high-profile cases as that of lawyer Mohammad Najafi and Kavous Seyed Emami, the university professor and environmental activist who died in Evin Prison on February 8th. Prison authorities claimed Emami had committed suicide.

Kaykhosravi has since been transferred to Evin Prison.

Payam Dorafshan and Farokh Forouzan, lawyers

Attorneys Payam Dorafshan and Farrokh Forouzan were arrested in the home of their imprisoned colleague Arash Kaykhosravi on August 31st.

Dorafshan was among a group of lawyers suing Bijan Ghasemzadeh, interrogator in Branch Two of the Culture and Media court, for his decision to ban the popular messaging app Telegram. Forouzan works in children’s rights.

Both have since been released. The reason for their arrest remains unclear.

Mohammad Najafi, lawyer and human rights activist

On July 29th, Branch 102 of the Second Criminal Court in the central Iranian city of Arak sentenced lawyer Mohammad Najafi and dozens of other citizens to prison terms for participating in January’s Shazand County protests.

Najafi was convicted of “disrupting order and public peace by taking part in illegal gatherings” and sentenced to one year in prison plus 74 lashes. Prior charges of “publishing false information to disrupt the public conscience” brought the prison sentence to a total of two years.

Najafi is among those investigating the death of a protestor in January’s Shazand protests. He publicly spoke out about the death of Vahid Heydari, a citizen who died while in the custody of authorities after being arrested in Arak.

Zaynab Taheri

Lawyer Zaynab Taheri was arrested on June 19th, one day after the execution of her client Mohammadreza Salas Babajani, a Sufi Dervish prisoner convicted of killing three police officers. She had publicly advocated for Babajani on social media.

She was arrested by the Culture and Media court and convicted of both “publishing falsehoods to disrupt the public conscience” and “propaganda against the regime.” She was released on bail August 8th.

On August 31st, the International Federation of Human Rights, known by its French acronym FIDH, expressed concern over the harassment of Taheri by judicial authorities, asking Iranian officials to cease their harassment of her and other human rights defenders.

Taheri’s clients included Salas Babajani, Mohammad Ali Taheri, and Ahmadreza Jalali.

Hoda Amid, lawyer and women’s rights activist

On the morning of September 10th, security forces arrested Hoda Amid in her home along with Najmeh Vahedi, another women’s rights activist with a formal education in sociology who was with Amid at the time. Amid and Vahedi are known to have organized educational training workshops for women inquiring about their rights in marriage contracts.

The precise reason for Amid’s arrest and her current status remain unknown.

The Latest Status of Arrested Civil Activists in Arak

Posted on: May 2nd, 2018

HRANA News Agency – Since the beginning of public protests in January, a number of civil activists from Shazand and Astaneh, including Kian Sadeghi, Behzad Alibekhashi, Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri and Abbas Safari, have been arrested by security forces. The arrests took place in a special way after they took part in the disclosure of how one of the protesters of the recent events, Vahid Heidari, died in the Arak Basij detention center. So far, two of these detainees have been released on a bail, and the rest of them have been transferred to Arak Prison by completing the interrogation process.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), a number of civil activists from Shazand and Astaneh who were arrested in connection with the protests in January, particularly the disclosure of Vahid Heidari’s death in Arak Basij detention center, have been transferred to Prison of Arak, after completing the interrogation process, and are still in a state of uncertainty. (more…)

Two Activists Released from Arak and Evin Prisons

Posted on: May 1st, 2018

HRANA News Agency – Behzad Ali Bakhshi, a civil activist who had been arrested in connection with the protests in the Central Province in January, was released on the bail of 3.5 billion IRR from Central Prison of Arak on February 27.  Saeed Seifi Jahan, one of the detainees on February 1 was also released from Evin Prison on the bail on February 26.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), Behzad Ali Bakhshi was released temporarily with a bail of 3.50 billion IRR from Central Prison of Arak on February 27. This prisoner had been arrested along with four other civil activists from Sha’zand and Astaneh, named; Kian Sadeghi, Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri and Abbas Safari. (more…)

3 Civil Activists Transferred to Arak Central Prison

Posted on: April 12th, 2018

HRANA News Agency – Mohammad Najafi and Ali Bagheri, two of the detainees of the recent protests were transferred to the Central Prison of Arak, after completing the interrogation process. Behzad Ali Bakhshi, another civil activist from Arak, was also transferred to Ward 8, the Health Ward.

According to the report of Human Rights Activist News Agency in Iran (HRANA), Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer and human rights activist, along with Ali Bagheri, a civil activist, were transferred to the general Ward of Central Prison of Arak. (more…)