Authorities Unforthcoming on Status of Sunni Prisoner

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Since Sunni prisoner Hafiz Tawhid Quraishi was taken in ambiguous circumstances last month to the Detention Center of the Ministry of Intelligence, his family has remained in suspense over his wellbeing.

An informed source told HRANA that Quraishi’s wife and father were insulted and thrown out of Evin Prison’s Prosecution Office when they attempted on September 1st to arrange a visit with him there. “Prison officials told Quraishi’s family that he didn’t have the right to visits,” the source added.

Quraishi had five months left of his sentence at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj when around 80 of the prison’s Special Forces, accompanied by intelligence officers, launched an attack on the Sunni quarters of the prison (Hall 21 of Detention Center 7), injuring a number of prisoners and destroying or confiscating their personal property.

An informed source confirmed that Quraishi was then transferred to Evin Prison’s Ward 209, where the Ministry of Intelligence Detention Center is housed.

The radio silence from authorities thus far on Quraishi’s case has his family concerned about his fate, and the possibility that authorities are working to prevent his release by developing another case against him.

Mawlavi Hafiz Tawhid Quraishi, a resident of Talesh, was arrested in September of 2014 and tried one year later. He was initially sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, which was reduced to seven years in an appeals court.

Update on Mostafa Daneshjoo: Evin Prison Authorities Won’t Budge on Medical Blockade

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Mostafa Daneshjoo, an attorney, is currently serving prison time for his legal advocacy and defense of the Gonabadi Dervishes, a religious minority. These days, Daneshjoo is sacrificing more than his freedom: he is now being forced to sacrifice his health.

Daneshjoo, despite suffering from acute lung and heart disease, has been barred access to medical attention of any kind since he was arrested on July 7, 2018.

According to Majzooban Noor, the Gonabadi Dervish Community News Website, when Daneshjoo was first detained, his family was cut off from contact with him for months. When they were finally permitted to see him in Ward 4 of Evin Prison, their relief was mingled with shock at the sight of his severely declining health.

Mostafa Daneshjoo is the former managing director of the Majzooban Noor website. While the clinic at Evin Prison has Daneshjoo’s medical file on hand, authorities–citing Daneshjoo’s prior arrest–are preventing him from seeking help, even from the generalists at the Evin Prison Clinic.

Daneshjoo was arrested in his mother’s home by seven armed officers in the early morning of July 7th. After spending 45 days in solitary confinement in Ward 209 of the Ministry of Intelligence detention center, he was transferred to Evin’s Quarantine Ward before being taken to Ward 4, typically reserved for prisoners with financial charges. Daneshjoo, who is asthmatic, experienced a sharp increase in symptoms after spending 45 days in a solitary cell without ventilation. While he was taken to Taleqani Hospital on July 21st, he was turned away without receiving care within a few hours.

Daneshjoo’s case file indicates that his current arrest warrant was issued by Branch 3 of the Shahid Moghaddas Prosecutor’s Office in Evin Prison. In a phone conversation at the time, he explained he was being pursued by authorities for his affiliation with the Dervishes who were involved in the Golestan Haftom incident. Authorities have reportedly wielded further punitive measures against him, according to a letter published in May 2017 by the Azad University Security Office, which announced that Daneshjoo was being prevented from pursuing his graduate studies in Penal Law and Criminology.

During prior defense proceedings of a number of Gonabadi Dervishes, following punitive reports from Iranian security agencies, Daneshjoo’s licence to practice law was revoked. He was sentenced — along with other attorneys, Dervish advocates, and his Majzooban Noor co-managers– to imprisonment on charges of “Membership in the Dervish anti-security sect,” “Acting against national security,” “Propaganda against the regime,” and “Disrupting public opinion.” Between 2011 and 2015, he served his sentence in Ward 350 of Evin Prison and was released in May 2015.

Labor Activists Arrested in Western Iran

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, two labor activists living in Sanandaj (capital of Kurdistan province in Iran) were detained by security forces and taken to an undisclosed location, a close source told HRANA. The source identified the activists as Khaled Hosseini and Mozafar Salehnia.

Hosseini and Salehnia were among five labor activists who were summoned to Branch One of Sanandaj Revolutionary Court on April 28, 2018, shortly before International Workers’ Day (May 1st).

They were previously interrogated on March 5, 2017, by Branch 4 of the Sanandaj Revolutionary Court for taking part in a Nowruz (Persian New Year) festival organized by a workers’ council in Pardis Hall of Sanandaj.

Charges Rack Up Against Mohammad Mahdavifar

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A four-year succession of court cases against civil rights activist Mohammad Mahdavifar continued on Sunday, September 2nd in Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of the defendant’s home city Aran va Bidgol (Isfahan Province), this time on charges of “Insulting the Iranian Leadership,” “Insulting the Founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini,” and “Propaganda Against the Regime.”

Present were presiding Judge Mousavi and Mahdavifar’s attorney Mohammad Najafi, who told a HRANA reporter: “The court convicted him using letters he addressed on his Telegram channel to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as investigative reports on him from Kashan’s Intelligence Office and the Basij [a volunteer branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]. The court should reach a verdict in the coming days.”

Currently serving a two-year sentence in Isfahan Central Prison, Mahdavifar’s civic activities have thickened his rap sheet with Iranian authorities in recent years. He was arrested by security forces in Mashhad (Khorasan Razavi Province) on January 14, 2018 and remained detained until March, when the Criminal Court of Aran va Bidgol issued a sentence: two years’ imprisonment and an approximately $400 USD (40 million IRR) fine, for charges of “Publishing Misinformation with the Aim of Disturbing Public Opinion” and “Contact with Foreign Governments.” This verdict was upheld in Branch 16 of the Isfahan Court of Appeals. Later, on July 29, 2018, he was sentenced to another eight months in prison for “Aiding and Abetting in Spreading Misinformation” by Branch 101 of Criminal Court 2 of his local Judiciary.

Mahdavifar’s history with Iranian authorities goes back to 2014 when he was interrogated in Branch 2 of Aran va Bidgol Court for composing a politically-critical poem called “Alphabet” and reading it at the literary forums of Kashan. In 2015, he was sentenced to one and a half years’ imprisonment in Branch 105 of Criminal Court 2 on a charge of “Spreading Misinformation.” Branch 23 of the Appeals Court of Isfahan Province, presided by Hamid Reza Amani, reduced this sentence from 18 months to 10 months and an (approximately) $300 USD (3 million IRR) fine, by modifying the charge of “Spreading Misinformation” to “Propaganda Against the Regime.” Intelligence Forces would later arrest Mahdavifar in his home on September 19, 2016, and transfer him to solitary confinement in Isfahan prison, which is under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence. He spent 45 days there before being released.

A source close to Mahdavifar’s family previously told HRANA that Mohammad “is suffering from respiratory problems as a result of his exposure to chemical weapons during the Iran – Iraq war, yet is housed in Isfahan Central Prison’s general ward alongside people convicted of drug offenses.” While Iranian prison code stipulates that prisoners with certain religious beliefs and criminal records be kept apart for safety reasons, reports suggest that authorities often skirt this rule.

The source close to Mahdavifar’s family decried the unsuitable sanitary conditions of Ward 3, where Mohammad is currently being held. “Most inmates [there] smoke cigarettes and use drugs. He repeatedly requested to be transferred to another ward, but authorities haven’t followed up.”

Imprisoned Dervishes’ Sit-In Violently Raided; Transferred to Solitary Confinement

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On Wednesday, August 29, 2018, Great Tehran Penitentiary guards used batons, electrical shock, and tear gas to break up a sit-in of *Dervish prisoners that had been in effect in Ward 3 since June 13th.

The Twitter account of Majzooban Noor — who publishes a news feed on Dervishes, a religious minority — reported that prison officials filtered the other detainees out of the quarantine area before charging the Dervishes’ sit-in. They welded the gate of the prison yard, leaving a number of Dervishes surrounded. Guards used tear gas to keep at bay another group of Dervish prisoners who were attempting to break the siege.

A Dervish who took part in the sit-in explained in an audio file that “instead of heeding our ultimatum to release the female Dervish prisoners of Gharchak, they jarred us awake early in the morning and broke up the sit-in. The guards divided us into two groups, taking one to the prison hall and the other to the guard stand. One group of Dervishes broke a door to join the others. The guards countered by beating them severely. Our condition is troubling.”

Hours after the assault, all of the Dervishes imprisoned in Ward 3 were taken to solitary confinement cells. Shortly after, the following Ward 4 Dervishes protesting the attack on their Ward 3 comrades were also transferred to solitary confinement:

1. Ali Mohammad Shahi 2. Heydar Teymouri 3. Hassan Arab Ameri 4. Saeed Doorandish 5. Reza Yavari 6. Reza Sigarchi 7. Mohsen Azizi 8. Mehdi Keyvanloo 9. Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddam 10. Salehodin Moradi 11. Sina Entezari 12. Hadi Shahreza 13. Ahmad Iranikhah 14. Mehdi Mardani 15. Rassoul Hoveydah 16. Kianoosh Abbaszadeh 17. Mojtaba Biranvand 18. Abbas Dehghan

Dervishes in Ward 2 also protested the violence of the raid by tying their hands with a white cloth.

These events unfolded during a visit from Mostafa Mohebbi, Director General of Prisons of Tehran province, who had come to see the prison following reports of its poor conditions.

The sit-in was sparked by a violent attack on female Dervish prisoners of Gharchak Prison on June 13, 2018, in which they were assaulted with batons and shocked with electrical weapons before being dispersed among different wards. In protest, these female Dervishes declared a 16-day hunger strike, while male Dervishes organized the sit-in in a display of solidarity. HRANA previously published the identities of those who attacked the female Dervishes.

The crackdown against Dervishes intensified in late February 2018, when police forcibly disbanded a protest they had organized against ramped-up surveillance of their leader.

The February 2018 clash ended in the injury and arrest of a number of Dervishes. While Iranian Judiciary authorities estimated the number to be around 300, HRANA published the names of 324 and estimated the number to be considerably higher.

Human Rights Watch also tweeted about the February 2018 crackdown, and revealed in a recent report, “Since May 2018, revolutionary courts have sentenced at least 208 members of the religious minority to prison terms and other punishments in trials that violate their basic rights”.

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* There are various divisions among Dervishes in Iran. In this article, the term “Dervish” refers to Nematollahi Gonabadis, who in recent years have declared themselves followers of Twelver Shia Islam, the official state religion in Iran. On March 8th, Noor Ali Tabandeh, the spiritual leader of the Gonabadi Dervish faith, published a video stating that he is not permitted to leave his residence in Tehran.

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Ahwazi Arab Activists Arrested in Southwestern Iran

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Three Ahwazi Arab activists from the city of Hamidiyeh, in the province of Khuzestan (southwestern Iran), were arrested by plainclothes forces on the morning of Monday August 27th and taken to an undisclosed location.
HRANA has confirmed the identities of two of the detainees as Hassan Beit Said, 26, and Ali Mazraeh, 27.
Hamidiyeh county consists of two districts and four villages and has a population of 48,935 people (based on a 2006 census).
At the same time, three prisoners who were detained on July 2, 2018, during widespread protests in Ahwaz (capital of the Khuzestan province) were transferred to Sheyban Prison by IRGC Intelligence forces following the completion of the interrogation process. HRANA has identified these three individuals as Seyed Ali Mousavi, 27, Mohammad Savari, 18, and Reza Savari, 26. All three are residents of Ahwaz’s Kouy-e Alawi district. The charges against them are still unknown.

Azerbaijani Activist Arrested and Transferred to Sarab Prison

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Seyed Jamal Moosavinejad, an Azerbaijani Turkic minority rights activist from the city of Sarab, was arrested by security forces on the morning of August 25th and taken to Sarab Prison to start his one-year sentence, a credible source told HRANA.
Last May, Moosavinejad was convicted of “Propagating against the regime in favor of partisan ethnic and separatist groups” which led to a suspended prison sentence of one year. Branch 26 of the East Azerbaijan Appeals Court, presided by Judge Mikayil Khoobyarpour, upheld the sentence.
The court cites the following activities as the reasoning behind Moosavinejad’s conviction: issuing statements on social media; reflecting anti-regime and ethnic activities in foreign media; respecting and kissing of a flag belonging to an alien country due to ethnic beliefs in contravention of the Islamic Republic of Iran; praising the Azerbaijani events of 1945 and praising their founder, Jafar Pishevari; confessing to engaging in ethnic activities on Telegram.
Moosavinejad had also been charged with “Insulting the Supreme Leader” but was acquitted of that count.
Seyed Jamal Moosavinejad was first arrested in February after security forces raided his house. His phone, laptop, books and papers were confiscated at the time. He was released on a four billion rial [apprximately $40,000 USD] bail. According to Moosavinejad, he was insulted and humiliated by security forces throughout the process of arrest, being charged, and the initial court and appeals hearings. Furthermore, he had previously been arrested in Sarab in the summer of 2012, together with several other citizens.

Letter: Political Prisoner Calls UN Envoy’s Attention to “Hostage” Prisoners

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- From the walls of a prison in Ardabil, Mohammad Saber Malek Raisi recounts the agony of becoming a pawn of the Iranian authorities, in a testimony that sheds light on the authorities’ use of political activists’ family members as coercion.
Malek Raisi is being held hostage himself by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry in a pressure tactic against his brother, a political activist operating outside of Iran. Currently serving an indefinite sentence in Ardabil, northwestern Iran, he has penned a letter to Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, imploring Rehman to help raise public awareness of hostage prisoners.
His letter is especially emphatic in its request to spare Abdollah Bozorgzadeh, a fellow prisoner, from the same fate. Bozorgzadeh is one of seven individuals arrested for demonstrating outrage over news of the rape of 41 women in the southeastern province of Sistan & Baluchestan, home to Iran’s Baluchi ethnic minority. Molaana Molazehi, the Friday prayer Imam of Iranshahr, had spread news of the rape after delivering the Eid-e Fitr prayer sermon at the conclusion of Ramadan on June 15, 2018, adding that the culprits were “individual(s) who had access to “power & money.”
Moved by this announcement, community members rallied on June 17, 2018 in front of the governor’s office. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fired back with an accusation that the protest was the work of foreign agents and arrested several activists on those grounds, seven of whom were later seen confessing in recordings broadcast by the IRGC. Adollah Bozorgzadeh, who had joined in support of the rape victims, was one of the seven.
Below is the translated text of Mr. Raisi’s letter:
Dear Mr. Javaid Rehman,
My name is Mohammad Saber Malek Raisi, and I am from Sarbaz in the Sistan & Baluchestan province. On October 14, 2009, when I was only 18 years old, I was abducted by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. I have been their hostage for nearly nine years now. The Ministry has contrived charges against me while I’ve been in custody, accusing me of belonging to Jundallah [a militant Sunni organization known as the Peoples’ Resistance Movement of Iran, or PRMI]. My case was tried in Zahedan, the Revolutionary Court of the capital of Sistan & Baluchestan. This court accepted the “investigation” conducted by the Zahedan Intelligence Bureau, to the exclusion of all other evidence. The court ignored my protestations of innocence and was unfazed by the torture and duress I experienced at the hands of Intelligence Ministry agents who sought to extract false confessions from me. They were unfazed by the Ministry’s use of threats to intimidate my family, saying they would execute me if my brother, who is a political activist outside Iran, did not turn himself in. The court found me guilty under section 185 of the Islamic Penal Code for my alleged membership in Jundallah, sentencing me to 15 years in prison, to be served in exile in the city of Ardebil. I was given an additional two-year prison sentence under Passport Law section 34 on a charge of crossing the border illegally.
My conviction does even not correspond to the case facts invented by the Ministry of Intelligence. Even if were guilty, [based on my conviction date] I would be subject to Section 186 of the old penal code which defines the crime of Moharebeh (“enmity against God”) as an armed rebellion against the Islamic state, rather than section 185 which now defines it as banditry and plundering. I was sent to the ward of prisoners convicted of armed robberies, an out-of-proportion punishment that doesn’t even reflect the case built against me.
For 21 months, from my arrest in October 2009 until June 4, 2011, I was held in the Zahedan Intelligence Bureau detention center. During this period as well as the period between April 9th and July 11, 2017, while I was in Section 29 of Zahedan Prison (controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence), agents used my captivity to pressure my brother, Abdolraham, to abandon his anti-regime political activities.
When I was first arrested, my family was threatened with my imminent execution if my brother wouldn’t turn himself in.
I was transferred to Evin Prison for three months under the pretext of requiring medical treatment. But I received no treatment while I was there and am still suffering from a disease. During the same period, agents threatened to double my sentence unless my brother abandoned his cause.
It’s now been nine years since I’ve been imprisoned in the worst possible conditions, deprived of civil rights, including:
§ Public medical services
§ Access to religious books
§ The ability to write (unsupervised use of pen and paper are forbidden)
§ The ability to make phone calls
§ The right to learn and take classes
§ Access to other parts of the prison such as the library and store
§ The right to visits, furlough, conditional release, or serving my sentence in my birth city
§ Clemency
On the contrary– I am subject to deplorable and inhumane conditions that are the design of the Intelligence Ministry, including insults, mocking, beatings, extended isolation, being tied up outside in the cold snowy weather, and being handcuffed and shackled for forty days.
Mr. Rahman, with this evidence of my ordeal in hand, and in the name of all prisoners taken hostage by the Ministry of Intelligence, I ask you to launch an investigation and put an end to this unjust tactic, which in the last four decades has become a norm. I urge you to follow up the cases of those who are suffering the same fate as I am and to demand their release.
These individuals are many, and some have even been executed. Prisoners like Mehrollah Reigi Mahernia, who is only 18, Mohammad Saleh Torkamaan Rahi, Ayoub Gahramzayi, and Salman Jadgal, are all being held because of their siblings’ activism. Some like Alyas Ghalandarzehi, aged 18, is on death row for the politics of two of his uncles. There are more whose identities I cannot reveal, who regained freedom only because their activist family member turned themselves in.
The most recent case of brutal hostage tactics unfolded on June 17, 2018. The victim is a 30-year-old Baluchi, a young man named Abdollah Bozorgzadeh. Bozorgzadeh is only beginning the stages of a process which slowly depraves and spoils one’s life. He is being used as a tool to pressure his brother Habibollah.
Perhaps the word “pressure” does not do justice to the true nature of what these victims and their families experience. In reality, the stress permeates the family’s entire existence, brutally destroys the life of the hostage, and paralyzes the family in a state of suspense. The uncertainty is a major psychological blow to every single family member who is awaiting the fate of a loved one held hostage. The families cannot comprehend how such a cruel injustice could exist in our world.
Mr. Javaid Rehman, knowing my family’s and my own dark experience, I do not wish this suffering upon anyone else. That is why my parents, my brother Abdolrahman, and I ask you to persist in elucidating the case of Abdollah Bozorgzadeh, so that he and his family do not have to suffer as we have.
Abdollah’s father has staged sit-ins twice to demand the release of his son, but no organization has been responsive to him.
Abdollah Bozorgzadeh is a student who attended a rally like many other young people in Iranshahr who were demanding justice for victims of a local sexual assault case. No law was broken, no act of desecration took place. He is detained arbitrarily, for the political activities of his brother against the regime. Please act to secure his release!
Mohammad Saber Malek Rayisi
Ward 7 of Ardebil Prison

Political Activist Majid Azarpey Arrested, Begins Prison Sentence

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Majid Azarpey, a reformist political activist, was arrested on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, and transferred to the quarantine ward of Evin Prison.

Azarpey was sentenced in November 2015 to six and a half years in prison and fined approximately $300 USD (30,000,000 Rial) by branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Moghiseh. His sentence was reportedly upheld by branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court in November 2017.

When he was arrested on Wednesday, he was complying with a phone call he had received on Monday, summoning him to Evin court to pay the $300 fine.

Azarpey was previously arrested in June 2015 by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence agents and released after eight months on approximately a $70,000 USD (7 billion Rial) bail on February 10, 2016.

Political Activist Nader Afshari Held Incommunicado

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Nader Afshari, a political activist who was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence agents on August 1, 2018, during the most recent wave of popular protests in the city of Karaj, continues to be held incommunicado.

Maryam Sabzeparvar, Mr Afshari’s mother, confirmed the news to HRANA: “…We had no news of Nader for six days following his arrest in Karaj’s Gohardasht. We looked everywhere, from security police and Intelligence offices to the Basij paramilitary base. Finally, on August 6th, Mr Ayoub Ebrahimian who presides over Branch 1 of the Karaj Revolutionary Court, told me that my son had been arrested by Intelligence Ministry security forces and is held in a “safe house” in Gohardasht. He told me Nader will be held there until the end of the interrogation sessions and will be possibly charged after the interrogations are concluded.”

According to Ms Sabzeparvar, her son was arrested last February and held in Ward 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison, a section controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, for 48 days. During this period Mr Afshari was reportedly under duress and experienced much abuse by the interrogators and prison officials. “We are very worried about the conditions he is being held right now, and we hope the events of his last arrest have not been repeated,” Ms Sabzevari said.

Nader Afshari was previously arrested on February 4, 2018, along with six other civil rights activists following the widespread protests in Iran.

According to Ms Sabzeparvar, Mr Afshari’s only contact with his family was a phone call which lasted a few seconds and during which he informed his family that he was fine.

UPDATE: Nader Afshari was released on August 14, 2018, on a 50 million Tomans (approximately $5,000 USD) bail, pending the completion of the investigations.