Monthly Archives: March 2012

Prisoner Fatemeh Rahnama’s sister: “My sister is penalized for another person’s quest for the presidency.”

Human Rights House of Iran –  Political prisoner Fatemeh Rahnama’s sister: “Why must my sister pay the price for someone else’s run for the presidency? We want to understand why we must suffer in this way.”

By Mojtabah Saminejad

Translated by Lalehsr

Fatemeh Rahnama is a female political prisoner who is spending her 10-year prison sentence in exile in Sepidar prison in Ahvaz. She was detained at her home on July 29, 2009.

Her sister Zahra Rahnama spoke to Human Rights House of Iran about Fatemeh’s situation. She is about to spend her third Norouz (Persian New Year) behind bars without any furlough.

“My sister’s situation is the same as it has been and nothing has changed. My sister is being held in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz. We recently made another official request for her release, and we asked for an answer to my sister’s written letter. But unfortunately so far they have refused to grant her freedom. When we asked the authorities why they are keeping my sister behind bars, they said it was because of her crimes. What those crimes are, we still do not comprehend but anyway they have refused to free her.”

Rahnama’s sister spoke of the refusal to grant furlough to her sister.

“So far [3.5 years] she has not been granted any furlough. Recently there was an announcement with the names of prisoners in Sepidar prison in Ahvaz who have been granted furlough and my sister’s name was not on that list. They said prisoners who have committed crimes against national security would not be on the list. Not only now during Norouz (Persian New Year), but even months ago when my sick mother ended up in a coma for 6 months before losing her life, my sister was not allowed out to see her mother or attend her funeral.”

In a session of parliament, Elias Naderan, a conservative member of parliament and supporter of the Ahmadinejad regime referred to Fatemeh Rahnama as the “mistress” of Shapour Kazemi, who is the brother of Zahra Rahnavard. Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi has been under house arrest along with her husband for over a year.

The allegation that Fatemeh Rahnama was the “mistress” of Shapour Kazemi was not only made by state run media, but it was published by the Islamic Revolution Documents Center. In their documents they made the written allegation that “on June 16, 2009, Mr. Shapour Kazemi, who has dual citizenship with the United Sates of America and is brother of Mrs. Zahra Kazemi, known as Rahnavard, wife of Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi, was arrested along with his mistress Ms. Fatemeh Rahnama as they were creating disturbances in Vanak Square and burning motorcycles.”

Zahra Rahnama, sister of this prisoner has a different version of events.

“Mr. Shapour Kazemi and my sister were detained on the same day. After a few months behind bars, Mr Kazemi was exonerated and released, but my sister is still in prison. The state run media were very vulgar in their coverage of this news, and accused my sister of dishonorable actions. They claimed that my sister was detained while she was burning 7 motorcycles. But my sister’s neighbors are even witnesses to the fact that security agents went to her home at night and detained her. If Mr. Kazemi wanted to damage this regime, he had much better ways to do so than burning several motorcycles. What is interesting however is that Mr. Kazemi was exonerated of all charges while my sister has been held behind bars for the past 3 years. This is always how it is; the poor and innocent are targeted and sacrificed. My sister is a victim.”

Zahra Rahnama spoke of her sister’s condition in prison.

“Prison is prison and it can never be a good place, but a few days ago my sister was again saying she didn’t understand why she had to be among prisoners who have committed serious crimes. Of course many of these same prisoners could be good people and better than some who are free.”

“But the fact remains that this is an injustice that has been committed against my sister; they sentence her to 10 years in prison, they exile a 50 year old woman to a prison that is 1000 kilometers away from where she lives and force her to spend her time behind bars so far away. Her mother dies and they refuse to grant her furlough. There are so many other circumstances that have exasperated us. We are baffled at why things are as they are. It is very troubling that the judiciary in Iran behaves in this manner. I don’t know what else to do, every door we knock on is slammed in our faces. I just don’t understand why we are being so challenged considering my sister has no affiliations, she has not done anything nor committed any crime. In my sister’s court dossier, there is no evidence of any crime. For her to be imprisoned due to other issues is a very dismal reflection on the judiciary in Iran.”

Zahra Rahnama spoke of the difficulty of visitation due to the prison’s distance.

“Due to the prison being so far from where we live, we can only travel there every one or two months by plane. Ahvaz is too far for us to able to travel there once a week. I was never able to take my mother there and mother didn’t even once get to visit her daughter in prison.”

Zahra Rahnama spoke of her follow-up actions for her sister’s case.

“Through our lawyers we have presented all the facts with great detail to the judiciary and they have responded that they will report to the Ministry of Intelligence. According to what the Judiciary is saying it is the Ministry of Intelligence that is prohibiting furlough for my sister. In my opinion it is they who owe an explanation, they cannot just arbitrarily arrest a person, sentence that person to prison in forced exile a thousand kilometers away from her home.”

Zahra Rahnama spoke of the agony of her sister not being allowed so see her sick mother before she passed away.

“I went to the office of Mr. Kamkar, who is deputy prosecutor of Tehran, under Mr. Dolatabadi. I told him what had happened, that the authorities didn’t even grant her furlough to attend the funeral after my mother died. He was very surprised and said he didn’t comprehend why considering it is the legal right of every prisoner to get furlough for these reasons. He told me to write a letter and attach my mother’s death certificate. This was a month after my mother had died and they were supposedly going to at least allow my sister a few days of furlough so she could grieve by her family’s side.”

“We did everything they asked and provided every document they requested, but unfortunately nothing ever happened. We wrote the letter as they asked and delivered it. Every time we follow up they give us a different story. They claimed it got lost, they said it went to a different office, when we went to that office they said it was somewhere else, and we ended as always running around with no answers. Nobody seems to know where the letter went. After the entire running around we are told our request is in the hands of the person in charge of my sister’s file. Well clearly that person is the interrogating officer who is the one who prohibited her from furlough to begin with. Mr. Dolatabadi, Tehran’s Prosecutor told our lawyer Mr. Alizadeh that the person in charge of my sister’s file has denied her request for furlough.”

During the past three years the family of Fatemeh Rahnama has tirelessly made every effort to gain her freedom or time off on furlough.

Zahra Rahnama spoke of her family’s efforts in the past 3 years to obtain release for her sister.

“Recently we visited the leadership’s offices and told them we would like to provide a written request. We have done this in the past and they always tell us to go to the offices of the Justice Ministry. We have written letters to the Ministry of Justice and delivered them to various offices; the office of the Judiciary at Shahid Beheshti, the office of the Judiciary Committee on Human Rights, the office of the Judiciary at Shahid Moghadas, and every place you can possibly imagine of, we have been to. But unfortunately all our efforts have been to no avail. They tell us it is too late, that we should have done something before the sentencing was handed down, and now all we can do is hope for a pardon. So according to what they are saying my sister has to hope that they forgive her for something she has not done. It is very interesting that she has endured 3 years of prison, must endure 7 more years unless she is forgiven for an alleged crime that she never committed.”

Zahra Rahnama pleaded with human rights organizations for help.

“This is very heavy. I am pleading with human rights organizations to help all prisoners if you can. Please do something for them. For the love of god, these youth are rotting in our prisons. Why has my sister been in prison for 3 years? For what crime? We have suffered so much. We have been so damaged. My family has been devastated and broken apart in the past 3 years. It isn’t a joke for gods sake. My mother was sick, but these pressures caused her health to plunge and we lost her. My father is now 80 years old. I don’t even dare get in touch with him at nights because every time I talk to him all he wants to know is what is happening with my sister’s situation. Every time he asks, “why is my daughter in prison?” He says, “all you do is go to offices and still my daughter is in prison? I don’t understand why have they imprisoned her?”  I keep telling him, “Father I swear I don’t know. They will not give us any answers. Nobody will even talk to me to give me a straight answer.” Well how am I going to answer my father? My retired father who worked for the youth of this country for over 30 years, now so many successful people benefiting from his efforts. Is it right that such a man, after all he has done for his country, at the end of his life he should endure such anguish and pressure? Does he deserve to suffer this way from his daughter languishing behind bars? Every time I talk to him he asks, “When will she be free?” I tell him she’ll be out in 5 or 6 months. I have to respond like that.”

She continued.

“I have to endure all this pain. We have suffered so much and all for nothing. I have even told Mr. Dolatabadi’s deputy the following. One person wanted to be president and that happened. Two others wanted to be president and it didn’t happen. But we are the ones paying the price; the price of a person becoming president. But why? We want to know why we have to suffer the price?”

Zahra Rahnama spoke of the report by Ahmed Shaheed, UN Rapporteur.

I saw in the news that the Minister of Justice is very upset about the report made to the UN by Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed. But the situation described in the report is true and happening as described. I don’t know about every single scenario. But I certainly see what has happened to my sister. She is being harassed. It is not right. My sister Fatemeh Rahnama had one activity that could be construed as political in her life and that was in 1982 when she was only 19 years old. At that time she was arrested and sentenced to 3.5 years in prison on the charge of ‘supporting’ the MKO [Mojahedin Khalgh Organization]. She spent her sentence behind bars and now, almost 27 years later they again bring up an issue that is from over 2 decades ago.”

She explained the background to Human Rights House of Iran.

“My sister was employed at the company of Mr. Shapour Kazemi, brother in law of Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi, for 15 years. Her job was neither related to Mr. Ahmadinejad nor to Mr. Mousavi, nor to the presidency. She was just an employee of the company. But all of a sudden she gets arrested and is accused of trying to associate Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his family to the MKO organization. This is what my sister is accused of yet there is no evidence of this in her court dossier. Not one of the countless people who are affiliated with Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi, includig Mr. Shapour Kazemi, have supported these allegations against my sister, and they have all repudiated these false charges.”

Zahra Rahnama spoke of her sister’s coerced confession.

“As I said in the court dossier there is no document showing any evidence of this alleged crime besides the confession my sister was coerced into making while under the influence of drugs they administered to her, along with threats and promises that the judiciary knows better than anyone. They forced her to agree to claim she had given monetary support to the MKO organization. This is all they have as their evidence.  During the past few months my sister has written several letters refuting this forced confession, which we have delivered to the Ministry of Justice. In her letter she describes the condition she was put in, under severe duress and held in solitary confinement, when she was forced to sign the false confession. In this 4-page letter my sister describes her maltreatment and in detail all the events that transpired while she was held in solitary confinement for two months. This letter is now in her court dossier at the Shahid-Beheshti Ministry of Justice but unfortunately none of the judiciary officials have made any acknowledgement or commented on this letter.”

Rahnama continued.

“It’s as if everyone has gone blind and deaf. There is only one reason I can come up with for this. The authorities are in a situation where they are not able to now admit that what my sister is saying is true. They know that if they acknowledge what my sister is saying, they will be admitting wrongdoing and this will create huge questions for the Ministry of Intelligence and the Ministry of Justice for imprisoning a person who has done nothing whatsoever.”

Zahra Rahnama spoke of her sister’s court session and sentencing.

“During the preliminary session at Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court my sisters lawyer wanted to defend her against the charge of ‘moharebeh’ (enmity against god), which had been brought up before the court session. But Judge Pir-Abassi presiding told my sister’s lawyer that it wasn’t necessary to defend this charge since thankfully she would not be charged with “moharebeh.’ Therefore her lawyer Mr. Keshavar did not defend this charge. My sister said that the whole court session was about her relationship with Mr. Kazemi, with accusations of immorality, and both of them were exonerated of these charges. But the sentencing that was issued later was a whole other matter. I myself was standing outside the court that day, when my sister’s lawyers, Mr. Keshavarz and Mr. Ghorbani came out and said everything went well in court and that were very optimistic. They said the judge accepted their defense and seemed to agree. But then, when the sentencing was issued it was a very different story.”

Zahra Rahnama, in closing asked again that human rights organizations pay more attention to the plight of her sister Fatemeh Rahnama and pleaded that they do whatever they can to help her.

Human Rights House of Iran

Sepidar prison- Ahvaz

Isa Saharkhiz attacked by prison guards and transferred to the CCU

Human Rights House of Iran –  Several plainclothes agents raided the room of political prisoner Isa Saharkhiz in the heart care unit of Shariati Hospital causing the journalist to end up in critical condition.

On Tuesday afternoon several plainclothes officials attacked the room of Isa Saharkhiz in the heart care unit of the hospital. The agents used violence and caused a commotion hurling insults with abusive language towards Saharkhiz and his wife. They created a very tense and uneasy atmosphere for the visitors and also for other patients in the hospital unit.

Human Rights House of Iran reports that this attack caused the decline of the health of both Saharkhiz and his wife.

According to Mehdi Saharkhiz, the son of this journalist, “After Isa Saharkhiz got into an argument with one of his guards, he became extremely stressed and ended up being transferred to the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) of the hospital. Saharkhiz had asked one of the guards to turn off the television and the guard refused to comply, ending up in an abusive confrontation. The ensuing altercation caused Saharkhiz’s blood pressure to shoot up. His face swelled up turning very red, and he had a severe coughing attack that would not subside. The physicians attempted to stabilize him by administering oxygen and medication to no avail so they transferred him to the CCU unit of the hospital. The physicians stated that Saharkhiz must be kept in a stress free environment and if he is exposed to any stress it can result in his death.”

Isa Saharkhiz was arrested on July 3, 2009 in the crackdown after the disputed presidential elections. He had written several articles directly critical of Ayatollah Khamenei. Security forces assaulted Saharkhiz during his arrest, breaking his ribs.

On September 27, 2010, after 15 months of being held behind bars, Judge Salavati presiding over Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court handed down a 3-year prison sentence for this journalist plus a 5-year ban from political and media activities and a one-year ban from travelling abroad. His charges were “insulting the leadership” and “endangering national security.” After his sentence was handed down, Isa Saharkhiz spoke to his family and told them that he would not appeal because in his opinion “all the sentences are handed down per direct orders of Mr. Khamenei and the judiciary has no say here.”

After a new court ruling on August 5, 2011 Isa Saharkhiz was sentenced to an additional 2 years in prison for his prior press activities, increasing his prison term to 5 years. He has served his sentence behind bars in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj before being transferred to the hospital.

Journalist and political activist Isa Saharkhiz was born on January 30, 1954 in the city of Abadan. He studied economics, graduating from Tehran University. In 1983 he worked as a journalist with an expertise in economics for IRNA, the regime’s official news agency. In 1997, he served as the head of the Ministry of Culture and Guidance’s domestic publications in the Khatami cabinet.

Saharkhiz founded a reformist newspaper, Akhbar-e-Eghtesad (economic news), and monthly magazine, Aftab (sun), both of which are now banned. He has also authored various publications.

Human Rights House of Iran

Isa Saharkhiz

Nargues Mohammadi sentenced to 6 years in prison

Human Rights House of Iran – The Court of Appeals handed down the ruling of 6-years in prison for human rights activist Narguess Mohammadi.

Nargues Mohammadi who served as Vice-President of the Defenders of Human Rights Center was handed down a revised sentencing by the appellate court. Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Pir-Abassi had handed down an 11-year prison sentence for this activist; 5 years for “assembly and collusion against national security,” 5 years for “being a member of DHRC” and one year for “propaganda against the regime.”

The 11-year prison term has now been reduced to 6 years behind bars. Per a report by DHRC, the new sentence was issued on January 15th and on March 4, 2012 it was announced to her lawyer.

The day before the announcement was made by the court of appeals, another member of this organization was handed down his sentence at the preliminary court.

Judge Pir-Abassi presiding over Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court handed down an 18-year prison sentence to Abdolfattah Soltani, an award winning human rights lawyer and speaker of DHRC. Soltani is a co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and three other lawyers.

Five prominent lawyers established the DHRC in 2001 and in 2003 the organization received the Human Rights Prize from the National Human Rights Institution of the French government.

On January 9, 2009, without warning, security agents raided the offices of the organization and illegally closed down its doors. Since then, members have been subjected to constant threats against their security and acts of harassment and intimidation.

During the past 3 years government security agencies have demanded that members resign from DHRC, write confession letters and make false televised confessions against the organization and its Chairperson, Shirin Ebadi. They have been told on numerous occasions that if they continue with their refusals to do so, they will be faced with further pressures and punishments.

The regime has gone through with its threats. DHRC members have been fired from their work place; they receive constant threatening phone calls at their home; have been illegally accosted and transferred to security agencies; been threatened with their safety. Members have faced arbitrary detentions and received heavy sentences.

Mohammadi was arrested by security forces in June 2010 and released on bail three weeks later. She was awarded the 2009 International Alexander Langer Award for demonstrating “outstanding civil, cultural, or social commitment.”

There is evidence of an atmosphere of another round of intensified pressure on human rights activists in the country along with international disputes and increasing domestic dissatisfaction.

Human Rights House of Iran

Nargues Mohammadi

Nazanin Khosravani arrested and transferred to prison to serve her sentence

Human Rights House of Iran –  Nazanin Khosravani’s trial was held on April 16, 2011 at Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Pir-Abassi. She was handed down a sentence of 6-years in prison. The charges against her were “assembly and collusion against national security,” and “propaganda against the regime.”

Nazanin Khosravani was arrested at her home on November 3, 2010 and transferred to solitary confinement at Tehran’s Evin prison. During her arrest, her laptop computer was confiscated. Security agents went back to her home 2 days later and demanded entry with threats of breaking the doors and windows. They conducted a search with no explanation while refusing to give Nazanin’s family any information regarding her whereabouts.

After enduring 1ays behind bars in Ward 209 of Evin prison, on March 15, 2011 she was released with a bail of $480,000. She is now back behind bars and serving her 6-year prison term.

Human Rights House of Iran

Nazanin Khosravani

Lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani sentenced to 18 years in prison and exile to the city Borazjan

Human Rights House of Iran – Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani to18 years in prison and exile to the city of Borazjan.

Abdolfattah Soltani , award winning human rights lawyer, was detained on September 10, 2011 and transferred to Ward 209 of Evin prison. Judge Pir-Abassi presiding over Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court handed down an 18-year prison sentence that has been announced to Abdolfattah Soltani’s lawyers. In addition to the prison term, this human rights lawyer was handed a 20-year ban from practicing law.

Human Rights House reports that the sentencing stemmed from the charges of “propaganda against the regime,” “co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center [with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi]” and “assembly and collusion against the regime.” In addition he was charged with “accepting an illegal prize” and “illegal earnings” stemming from the prize.

The mayor of Nuremberg, Germany awarded Abdollah Soltani the Nuremberg prize for Human Rights in 2009 and his wife accepted the reward on his behalf. The Nuremberg Prize has been awarded yearly to a human rights activist since 1995.

Abdolfatah Soltani, born on November 2, 1953, is a prominent human rights lawyer, a member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and serves on the board of directors of the Bar Association. During his tenure as a lawyer he has defended cases with issues of human rights violations for many including political activists, students and journalists.

Soltani had been arrested before in 2006 and spent 209 days in solitary confinement in Ward 209 of Evin prison. He had pled the cases of scientists accused of spying on Iran’s nuclear program and charged with espionage. He was subsequently charged with “illegal divulgence of secret and confidential information” of one of his clients.

At that time Soltani was also defending the cases of journalists Akbar Ganji and Zahra Kazemi. Ganji had broken stories of government officials involved in the murders of intellectuals and journalists in the 1990’s. Zahra Kazemi was an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was arrested for taking photos in front of Evin prison. She was tortured and died while in custody in Evin prison in July 2003. The intelligence agent charged with being responsible for her death was acquitted and with Soltani’s help, her family was in the process of appealing to a get a new enquiry started.

Amnesty International said it believed that false charges were brought against Soltani in order to obstruct him from practicing his profession and intimidating other lawyers and stopping them from pursuing human rights cases. After his detention last September the organization said “Abdolfattah Soltani is one of the bravest human rights defenders in Iran.”

The lower court in the 2006 case presided by Judge Mortazavi sentenced Soltani to 5 years in prison. However after spending 209 days behind bars, the Court of Appeals struck down the sentence and handed Soltani a full acquittal.

Soltani was released with no apology, admittance of wrongdoing or retribution from the Justice Ministry. His efforts to have judicial authorities responsible for his arrest prosecuted heeded no results.

This prominent attorney had also been arrested on June 16, 2009 following the disputed presidential elections after which on August 27, 2009 he was released with an $80,000 bail.

Human Rights House of Iran

Abdolfattah Soltani