Open Letter: the Fabricated Case file of Political Prisoner Pirouz Mansouri

Posted on: November 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Mohammad Ali (Pirouz) Mansouri, who has been a political prisoner at Rajai Shahr for eleven years, is further from freedom than he thought.

A new case file opened up against Mansouri, accusing him of “gathering and conspiring against the regime,” will prolong his 15-year prison sentence by another five years. Cited in court as evidence of this charge were records of his hunger strikes, instances of “aggravating other prisoners,” his declaration of support for Mohammad Ali Taheri, and a statement he issued condemning the execution of a Sunni prisoner.

In an effort to alert human rights defenders — particularly the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran — Mansouri has written an open letter detailing the circumstances of the new case file.

Full text of his letter below:

“Report of a Fabricated Casefile

I, Mohammad Ali Mansouri, have been serving a prison sentence since August 28, 2007 — i.e. for eleven years. In May of 2017, per a newly fabricated case file, I was imprisoned and interrogated in Ward 209 [Ministry of Intelligence jurisdiction] for a month. The new charge was built on my exchanges through [the messenger app] Telegram. Since I’ve been in prison, I haven’t been granted a single day of furlough. In the absence of any evidence, charges were dismissed, and the case was closed. Then, in October, I was interrogated once more, in connection to a new charge: propaganda against the regime. From behind bars.

In January, without any advance notice that would allow me to retain an attorney, I was tried by Judge Moghiseh in Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. I was indicted on charges that were never mentioned during my interrogations. The trial was unconventional[…]even compared to the unlawful methods employed routinely.

Defenseless and without the presence of an attorney, I was sentenced to five years of imprisonment for propaganda against the regime and gathering and conspiring with intent to commit a crime.

Notwithstanding the impossibility of gathering and conspiring from within the prison, criminal intent alone carries a five-year term […]

I verbally protested the matter (as they saw no need to put my complaint in writing). I introduced Mr. Dorafshan as my attorney, and yet, in his absence, the appeals court settled on a three-year imprisonment sentence[…]

The sentence was issued without a supervising judge, without me, and in the sole presence of the court secretary. The court record was entirely verbal. It was in no way compliant with the Islamic Penal Code. It was never clarified how it was deemed feasible when a hearing never convened, a judge never appeared, the defendant was absent, and the defense itself never spoke, that an appeal request could be filed and that this file could result in a sentence?

I have related the entirety of these judicial proceedings in order to illustrate the workings of our judicial system […]

I write not for the people of my country, who know this story by their own flesh and bones, but for human rights organizations, especially the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran. May they see the real face of our so-called independent judiciary, which is nothing but a sentence-printing machine run by the Ministry of Intelligence.

Mohammad Ali Mansouri, Rajai Shahr Prison,
November 2018”

Mohammad Ali (Pirouz) Mansouri was arrested September 2007 for participating in the 19th-anniversary commemorations of political prisoners that were executed in 1986. Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Salavati, sentenced him to 17 years of imprisonment on charges of “contacting and conspiring with the anti-regime Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization”. Added to that was an exile sentence to Karaj, in Rajai Shahr Prison, and a fine of 150 thousand tomans [approximately $80 USD]. The sentence was upheld in appeals court.

In July 2015, Mansouri’s daughter Iran Mansouri reported that a clemency program held on a religious holiday had reduced her father’s sentence by two years. His most recent case file has increased his remaining five-year term to a decade. He has yet to be granted furlough.

On World Day Against Death Penalty, Women in Evin Prison Urge UN Special Rapporteur to Visit Iran

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – From the walls of Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward, political prisoners Maryam Akbari Monfared, Golrokh Irayee, and Atena Daemi wrote a letter dated October 10th — the World Day Against the Death Penalty — urging the United Nations Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman to come and witness Iranian human rights violations in person.

In observance of the same occasion, Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) recently published its annual report on the death penalty, pending, and carried out since October 2017. According to this report, 256 executions were carried out in Iran between October 10, 2017, and October 9, 2018, a 50% decrease from last year due likely to newly-ratified laws precluding death-sentence rulings on drug-related cases. Due process is glaringly absent from the judicial processes leading up to executions in Iran.

Recently, another group of prisoners from Rajai Shahr in Karaj wrote to Rehman, requesting that members of the United Nations place on their dealings with Iranian authorities a condition: demonstrate further respect for human rights by abolishing the death penalty, which the prisoners called a “weapon of terror.”

The complete text of Akbari, Irayee, and Daemi’s letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

“To Mr. Javaid Rehman, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran,

As the World Day Against the Death Penalty approaches, we decided to report to you a summary of the countless instances of human rights violations that took place over the last decade in our country.

News agencies announced the elimination of the death penalty for drug-related offenses some time ago, yet killings on such accounts are still happening outside of the media spotlight. Drug dealing and homicide remain the judicial justification for a majority of the executions in Iran.

Current statistics — which you most certainly have seen — indicate that defendants, men & women alike, are sentenced to death every year on homicide and manslaughter charges, and lose their lives very soon after their convictions are delivered.

Alongside prisoners convicted on criminal charges, many prisoners of conscience and political prisoners have been executed by firing squad or in the gallows over the last four decades.

According to available documentation, these executions were at their peak in the first decade of the Islamic Republic (1978-1988). People were often executed without trial, their bodies piled in unmarked mass graves on the fringe of the city. (Meanwhile, those who oppose capital punishment have no license to speak, and are currently behind bars because of their dissent).

As the World Day Against the Death Penalty drew near, authorities carried out the execution sentence of Zaynab Sakavand, a 24-year-old woman who had spent many years in prison since being convicted as a minor. This was but one example among the thousands carried out over the past few years on charges of smuggling, theft, killing, […]. As long as the death sentence can be meted, its pool of victims will be populated by alleged offenders of this type, many of whom are victims of poverty and socioeconomic class struggle, or political and ideological activists who are victims of a corrupt system whose policies are rigged against them.

The current administration began selling in 2013 the well-known figurative promise to provide keys to unlock problems and free prisoners of politics and conscience. Yet executions [on these grounds] have pressed on. Sherko Moarefi, Ehsan Fattahian, and Gholamreza Khosravi were all executed shortly after the administration undertook its [“key”] project.

The summer of 2016 conjured memories of the 1980s. Prisoners of conscience (Sunni Kurds) were executed en masse, leading to the overnight evacuation of a Rajai Shahr Prison hall. Exactly one month before the World Day Against the Death Penalty, Ramin Hossein Panahi, Zanyar Moradi, and Loghman Moradi were executed without the slightest shred of evidence to support their conviction. Their bodies, like the bodies of Farzad Kamangar (the hanged teacher), were buried in an unknown location. They suffered the same fate as Roghiyeh Akbari Monfared, Mojtaba Mohseni, Mehrzad Pakzad, Abdolreza Akbari Monfared, the Behkish Family, and thousands of others who lost their lives in the mass executions of the 1980’s, many of whose names have been documented by the Committee for Enforced Disappearance of the United Nations.

Over the past few years, many Kurdish and Arab activists, as well as a number of ideological activists, have been arrested for subscribing to beliefs that countered those of the ruling body. They were accused of baseless crimes, and — with the ultimate intention of creating fear and repressing public unrest — were tortured, forced to implicate themselves by false confession, and hanged. Mohammad Salas was the most recent of these victims.

The Islamic Republic’s apology for the death sentence is its [supposed] role in preventing criminal recidivism and in setting an example for others. While experience has proven that execution is not and never will be an effective preventative measure, the Islamic Republic continues to argue for its necessity and consonance with Sharia law. This fact alone demonstrates their abuse of the religious spirit of Iranian society, with the intention of oppressing and deceiving the public mind. If Iranian authorities can actually produce reliable documentation in support of their position on these cases, which are only a few among countless cases like them in Iran, they should certainly welcome you in Tehran.

We the undersigned, political activists held at the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison, on this World Day Against the Death Penalty, express our abhorrence of the executions that have already taken place in Iran, and request that you — Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, Mr. Javaid Rehman — travel to Iran to investigate violations of human rights, and advocate for a wholesale abolition of the death sentence, regardless of the crimes it aims to punish, be they political, ideological, or criminal. Your arrival in Iran and plea for accountability from authorities will clarify many ambiguities. The Islamic Republic’s refusal to welcome you would demonstrate their determination to eliminate human beings in their death machine and would confirm the criminal scope of their actions. While we harbor no delusions that things will improve, since we view the current administration as beyond reform, we nevertheless wish for an immediate halt on capital-punishment verdicts, and for a change to Iran’s oppressive penal law.

Signed:

Maryam Akbari Monfared, Golrokh Irayee, and Atena Daemi
Women’s Ward of Evin Prison, October 2018”

About the authors: Maryam Akbari Monfared was detained on December 31, 2009 following a widespread Ashura demonstration during the holy month of Muharram. In June 2010, Judge Salavati sentenced her to 15 years’ imprisonment in Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court. She was convicted of enmity against god, gathering and colluding against national security, and propagating against the regime through working with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). She has denied these charges.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Irayee was arrested along with her husband on September 6, 2014. She was first held at an IRGC safe house for two days and then spent 20 days in the solitary cells of Evin’s Section 2A, which is under IRGC jurisdiction. She was released on a bail of 800 million rials. On October 24, 2016, the IRGC arrested Irayee again, without a warrant. Her husband Arash Sadeghi, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison, is currently in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr prison, and has undergone operations for cancer. Irayee was sentenced to six years in prison, which was reduced to 2.5 years based on amnesty and Article 134 of Islamic Penal Code. She was convicted of insulting the sacred and gathering and collusion against the regime.

Atena Daemi was detained October 21, 2014, and was transferred to Evin’s Women’s Ward January 14, 2015 after spending 86 days in a solitary cell of Ward 2-A. On May 15, 2015, she was sentenced by Judge Moghiseh of Revolutionary Court Branch 28 to 14 years’ imprisonment on charges of assembly and collusion against national security, propaganda against the regime, and Insulting the supreme leader. On February 15, 2016, she was released on a bail of 5500 million rials. Her appeals court convened in July of 2016, and reduced her sentence to seven years. She learned of the appeals decision two months later. After being arrested again in her parents home on November 26, 2016, her sentence was reduced to five years, pursuant to article 134 of Islamic Penal Code.

Earlier this month, HRANA reported on verbal orders from an Evin Warden that barred these women from having visitors for three weeks.

Open Letter from Prisoners to UN Envoy: Death Penalty is a “Weapon of Terror”

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, a letter was published to the attention of Javaid Rehman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran. Its authors were reaching out from the walls of Rajai Shahr Prison of Karaj, on the western outskirts of Tehran, to raise the specter of rising execution numbers and public hangings that still mar the face of the country.

The full text of their letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

Javaid Rehman
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Dear Mr. Rehman,

The death penalty is not simply a social predicament for us Iranians; it is a living nightmare. We live it and re-live it in the faces of children who witness public hangings, and in the faces of prisoners on death row. In the past few weeks alone, our fellow prisoners Mohammad Salas, Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were executed. Our families used to see each other during weekly visits. This time around, the visit was transformed to a day of mourning – further proof that the death penalty, a medieval legacy of human societies, is a collective punishment. With all of the shock and mental anguish that their executions put our families through, one can only imagine how the families of the victims are feeling.

[The aftereffects of] the death penalty are not the lot of political prisoners alone; every death-row prisoner feels them. The whole of society bears their cruelty.  The efforts of Special Human Rights Rapporteurs, particularly the late Asma Jilani Jahangir [Rapporteur between 2016 and 2018], who helped abolish the death penalty for drug-related offenses, are admirable. However, the widespread nature of executions calls for more drastic and concrete measures. Especially in today’s Iran, capital punishment is not simply a legal apparatus, but also a political weapon of terror used to suppress citizens expressing discontent with Iran’s economic, political, and social conditions.

We political prisoners believe that Iranian people will not be freed from this inhumane punishment without a serious international intervention. In our view, the economic and diplomatic needs of the Iranian regime are the ideal starting place for negotiations with authorities to put an end to capital punishment. We beseech you, as the Special Rapporteur, to ask the international community to make their dealings and diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime contingent on abolishing the death penalty and respecting human rights principles in Ian.

We thank you, in advance, for your efforts.

Sincerely,

1- Mohammad Amirkhizi
2- Majid Asadi
3. Payam Shakiba
4- Hassan Sadeghi
5- Arash Sadeghi
6. Abul Qassim Pulat
7- Abraham Firoozi
8- Mohammad Ali Mansouri
9- Saeed Masoori

CC: World Coalition against the Death Penalty (www.worldcoalition.org)

IRGC Detainee Back in Zahedan Prison Custody

Posted on: August 31st, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – On the evening of Thursday, August 30, 2018, Abubakr Rostami, a political prisoner on death row, was transferred to the General Ward of Zahedan Prison after being sequestered in an IRGC detention center for two days.

Rostami was originally taken from Zahedan’s Ward 4 into IRGC custody for reasons that HRANA has not yet been able to confirm.

Rostami was among a group of political Zahedan prisoners who addressed a letter to UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman, imploring him to advocate for political prisoners’ rights. Rehman is the UN’s designated expert on the human rights situation in Iran.

In an open letter co-written by Bandeh Chakerzehi and Sajjad Baluch — the two arrested with him on September 16, 2015 in Pakistan – Rostami proclaimed their innocence, stating the IRGC and Intelligence Agency exerted physical and mental torture on them on charges that were “bogus”.

In the letter, Rostami wrote of the trip to Pakistan he was planning in anticipation of making arrangements for continuing his studies [abroad]: “Due to border limitations, I was forced to travel through Pakistan to get to [another] foreign country, but I was arrested midway and handed over to the IRGC,” he wrote.

A second-year medical student at Zabol University of Medical Sciences, Rostami has spent the past three years in prison. In August 2017, along with Chakerzehi and Baluch who were on trial for the same case, he was sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court of Zahedan on charges of “Moharebeh” (enmity against God) and “Acting Against National Security through Cooperation with Opposition Groups”. No further details on their case or charges were available.

*Zahedan is a county in the Sistan and Baluchestan province.

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

Posted on: August 23rd, 2018

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