Nabz News Review - June 17, 2016
This week in human rights in Iran
In the past two weeks: Homa Hoodfar’s family reported that the Iranian-Canadian academic was arrested; Reporters Without Borders protested the new wave of anti-Baha’i persecution in Iran; lack of access to medical treatment for three political prisoners led to protests; courts in Iran continued to sentence labor activists and bloggers to floggings; three people were executed in Mashhad.
Rights of minorities
On June 9, Ahmed Shaheed and Heiner Bielefeldt warned about the new wave of anti-Baha’i persecution in Iran. Shaheed and Bielefeldt are the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran and on Freedom of Religion or Belief, respectively. After Faezeh Hashemi visited the home of Fariba Kamalabadi, a former Baha’i community leader in Iran, there were protests against this meeting and pronouncements against Baha’is by religious and state officials in Iran.
On June 6, it was reported that Homa Hoodfar, a retired Iranian-Canadian professor, was arrested in Tehran on March 11. No formal charges have yet been filed against Hoodfar, who holds Iranian, Irish, and Canadian citizenships. Hoodfar’s arrest is reminiscent of the arrest and death of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi.
On June 8, Amnesty International published a statement expressing concern about the condition of Hamid Babaei, who was studying at a university in Liege, Belgium and who has been behind bars since 2013 after visiting Iran and being arrested for refusing to collaborate with the Intelligence Ministry. Babaei, who is imprisoned at Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj, is being denied necessary medical care.
On June 14, Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over the condition of imprisoned journalists Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand and Ehsan Mazandarani, and called on Iranian authorities to attend to their wellbeing. Kaboudvand, who is on hunger strike to protest prison conditions, is in need of medical care, but prison officials have prevented him from going to the hospital. Mazandarani’s health has also been reported as very poor, due to long periods in solitary confinement and hunger strike. Earlier, PEN International also expressed concern over the health of Kaboudvand.
On June 6, Hadi Sadeghi, deputy chief of Iran’s judiciary, announced in an interview with the newspaper Shargh that he does not formally recognize political crimes. Recently, the Guardian Council approved a bill by the Majles that defines political crimes. The Iranian Constitution stipulates that political crimes must be tried in a public court and in the presence of a jury. However, since the beginnings of the Islamic Republic, there have been disagreements over the legal definition of political crimes. Political activists are hopeful that with the legal implementation of political crimes, the judiciary will be forced to try political dissidents under this law, in a public court and in the presence of a jury. The judiciary currently resorts to security-related charges to prosecute members of the political opposition. At the same time, many political activists believe that the given definition of political crimes will not be of much help in making political trials more fair in Iran, since the judiciary uses the prosecution of political opponents as a means to suppress dissenting voices in the country.
On June 8, the Yazd Penal Court gave nine workers from the Bafgh iron ore mine suspended sentences of prison time and floggings. These individuals were prosecuted for participating in the workers’ strikes of 2014-15. Recently, some courts in Iran have started to sentence workers who participate in union protests to floggings.
On June 9, political activist Arash Sadeghi was sentenced to 19 years in prison. The charges against him were announced as assembly and collusion, insulting the Supreme Leader, propaganda against the regime, and establishing illegal groups. The Revolutionary Court sentenced him to 15 years for these charges and also invoked a suspended prison sentence of 4 years.
On June 10, a court in the city of Saveh sentenced Mohammad Reza Fathi to 444 lashes of the whip. Three local public officials had filed a complaint against him for things he had published on his blog.
Freedom of expression
On June 6, after criticism from conservative cleric Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, screenings of the film “Fifty Kilos of Sour Cherries” were completely canceled. Recently, showings of some movies were canceled due to broadcasts of ads for them on satellite networks from outside Iran. After some of the producers were summoned to court, they were able to screen their films again, but “Fifty Kilos” was not allowed to continue, and by order of the Iran Cinema Organization, all screenings of it have been stopped. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati stated that if had known about the contents of the film, he personally would have denied it permission to screen. These remarks led to a wave of criticisms against him in Iran’s cultural and cinema circles.
On June 14, the newspaper Ghanoon was suspended, this time for publishing a reported about a big prison in Tehran and how prison authorities treat inmates there. Ghanoon had also been suspended in 2014.
On June 7, three prisoners were executed at Mashhad Central Prison on charges relating to drug smuggling.