Nabz News Review - June 26, 2015
This week in human rights in Iran
Freedom of expression
In recent weeks, discussions have picked up again regarding the various restrictions against former President Mohammad Khatami, who is currently banned from leaving the country and from having his image, quotes, or writings published. The judiciary had earlier based these restrictions to the vote of the Supreme National Security Council, but after Hassan Rouhani rejected this, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei announced that it was based on the Tehran attorney general’s decree and threatened legal action against those who protest the decision.
After Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years in prison on the charge of drawing caricatures of parliamentarians, an international campaign was launched in support of her. Through this campaign, cartoonists from throughout the world have drawn caricatures depicting Iranian parliamentarians and officials of the Islamic Republic as animals, and have shared these on social media with the hashtag #Draw4Atena.
On June 17, head of the Islamic Development Organization Mehdi Khamoushi reported the seizure of Kharazmi Publications, considered one of the most successful private publishers in Iran. For years, the independent publishing industry in Iran has faced various kinds of government pressure.
In a June 22 statement, Reporters Without Borders protested the IRGC’s attacks on citizen bloggers in Iran. It also expressed concern over imprisoned reporters’ inability to enjoy the right to work after their release.
The debate continues around Iranian women’s attendance in stadiums and arenas for men’s sporting events. After the relative optimism upon the issuance of permission for women to attend, the interior minister announced that there is no new directive for permitting women in arenas, shortly after an international volleyball match was held in Tehran.
On June 19, a group of Iranian Internet activists launched a Twitterstorm to protest the ban on women’s entry into stadiums and arenas in Iran. This action was welcomed broadly among Internet users, and the second stage was planned for Friday, June 26.
On June 21, Farsi-language media took up the discussion on separation of genders at Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) offices. Apparently the plan was implemented in some of IRIB’s radio stations, but this was denied by IRIB officials a few days later.
On June 11, the website Bikhof published an article describing a very simple way to hack WhatsApp. The messaging application WhatsApp is one of the most popular softwares in Iran. In recent weeks, a group of Iranians was arrested for their activities on WhatsApp and social media.
On June 18, Qom Seminary cleric Hojatoleslam Ahmad Heydari was sentenced to 6 years in prison and 74 lashes for publishing Seyyed Mostafa Tajzadeh’s letter to the Supreme Leader. The charges against him consist of propaganda against the regime, disturbing public opinion, publishing falsehoods against authorities, and propaganda in favor of groups and organizations opposed to the regime.
On June 17, it was reported that Hossein Rafiei, a member of the Nationalist-Religious Coalition of Iran who had been arrested in public without any prior summons, is protesting his arrest through a hunger strike and denying medicine as well. Minoo Mortazi Langeroodi, another Coalition member, was earlier sentenced to six years in prison and barred from political and civic activities for two years.
On June 15, the mother of Atena Farghadani reported that her daughter denies all accusations regarding illegitimate relations with her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi. Farghadani, who was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for drawing caricatures of parliamentarians, shook hands with Moghimi during a consultation, which has led to new accusations of inappropriate relations between the two. Moghimi has also been arrested for this accusation.
On June 18, Saham News published a letter by Masoumeh Dehghan, the wife of human rights lawyer and political prisoner Abdolfattah Soltani, in which she lamented her husband’s four-year sentence without parole. In Iran, many lawyers who take on the cases of political and civil activists are faced with various pressures and sometimes arrest and imprisonment.
Relatedly, the new Iranian criminal code was instituted beginning June 22. According to this law, those accused of security-related charges will only be able to choose their attorney from lawyers approved by the judiciary. Many observers view the implementation of this law as a violation of the right to a fair trial, since in security-related cases the state is normally the plaintiff, and if the defendant’s lawyer is not independent enough, then he or she would not be able to properly defend the client.
On June 14, Kurdish political prisoner Mansour Arvand was executed. Previously he had been told that his death sentence had been commuted by one degree to a life sentence. He was sentenced on the charges of moharebeh (enmity with God) and propaganda against the regime.
On June 25, 54 prisoners on death row at Ghezel Hesar Prison addressed the Iranian people in a letter, asking to be rescued from their plight. Ghezel Hesar has one of the highest number of executions among Iranian prisons. Many executions in Iran take place without the customary judicial processes, a constant point of protest among human rights actors.