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

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

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

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

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. Continue reading “The Latest Status of Arrested Civil Activists in Arak”

Two Activists Released from Arak and Evin Prisons

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. Continue reading “Two Activists Released from Arak and Evin Prisons”

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3 Civil Activists Transferred to Arak Central Prison

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. Continue reading “3 Civil Activists Transferred to Arak Central Prison”

Mohammad Najafi Tried and Released on the Bail

HRANA News Agency – Mohammad Najafi, a registered lawyer who is active in human rights related lawsuits in Shazand town, had his court hearing about the allegation of propaganda against the regime, and was then released on the bail. Mr. Najafi has three other cases against him, the first one in the armed forces’ court, the second one in the prosecution office of the town and the third one in branch number two of Evin court.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Mohammad Najafi, registered lawyer of judiciary, who is active in human rights related lawsuits, had his court hearing regarding the charge of propaganda against the regime in Shazand court in Markazi province, on march 4. His lawyers, Mr. Kaikhosro and Derakhshan were also present in that session. Continue reading “Mohammad Najafi Tried and Released on the Bail”

Mohammad Najafi Arrested by the Police

HRANA News Agency – Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer from Shazand in Arak was arrested by security guards.
According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer and activist in the field of human rights was arrested in the street in Shandiz city, while he had written “Ashura 88”, on his shirt. Continue reading “Mohammad Najafi Arrested by the Police”

Mohammad Najafi Will Be Tried in the Criminal Court

HRANA News Agency – The indictment was issued for Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer and human rights activist by the prosecution of city of Shazand with the charges of “spreading lies and disturbing public opinion”. Mr. Najafi must be present in the criminal court shazand on August 3.
According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the indictment was issued for Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer and human rights activist by the prosecution of city of Shazand with the charges of “spreading lies and disturbing public opinion”. The hearing has been scheduled for August 3 in branch 102 of criminal court of Shazand. Continue reading “Mohammad Najafi Will Be Tried in the Criminal Court”

Mohammad Najafi Acquitted in One of Three Cases

HRANA News Agency – Mohammad Najafi, a lawyer and human rights activist was acquitted of the allegation of “7 disciplinary violations” at branch number 3 of law enforcement court of Markazi province. This was one of the three cases that the lawyer is prosecuted on the basis of them.
According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), on May 20, 2016, branch number 3 of law enforcement court of Markazi province issued the acquittal of Mohammad Najafi for allegation of “7 disciplinary violations”. Continue reading “Mohammad Najafi Acquitted in One of Three Cases”