Monthly Archives: August 2014

The use of new pretexts by judicial authorities to prevent the release of political prisoners

Kaleme – Sepand Mir Yousefi Despite the new Islamic Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedures which effectively could lead to the release of many political prisoners, judicial authorities not only insist on the unjust prison sentences to be fully served, they also seek to keep the prisoners behind bars even after their prison sentences have been served. To accomplish this, the authorities have used some prisoners’ time out on prison furlough as an excuse to prevent them from release when their terms are done. On the other hand the wife of Mehdi Mahmoudian says a representative of the Prosecutor’s office gave them verbal assurances that prison furlough would not be counted as a leave of absence. According to Kaleme, Mehdi Mahmoudian, Bahman Ahmadi Amoui and Masoud Bastani are 3 such political prisoners who were arrested in 2009 during the events of mass protests following the disputed presidential election results. All 3 have been serving their sentences in Rajai Shahr prison. Prison officials have so far abstained from tending to their legal files consequently postponing their release dates. However what the judicial authority labels as a leave of absence is in reality the time that these prisoners – per the verbal approval of the representative of the Prosecutor’s office – remained out of prison while on furlough. Mehdi Mahmoudian [prominent journalist who exposed gross human rights violations at the Kahrizak detention center, and member of the now banned Participation Front political party] –  is one such prisoner who was due to be released today August 21st.  But he remains behind bars and per orders of prison authorities his release date has been extended until September 7th. Elham Zolfaghari in an interview with Kaleme explains the dealings between judicial authorities and her husband Mehdi Mahmoudian leading to his release date being prolonged for an extra 2 weeks.

Mr. Mahmoudian was arrested in September 2009 and has been behind bars since then with the exception of a few short releases on furlough. Considering the fact that his prison sentence was 5 years, what is the exact date of his sanctioned release?

His release date was set for August 21st, which is today. But last year he was granted furlough for about 3-4 months along with [political prisoners & journalists] Bahman Amoui and Masoud Bastani. At that time they went to the Prosecutor’s office several times to request an increase to their time on furlough, and [deputy prosecutor] Mr. Khodabakhsi himself said not to come back to the office because they would put extensions into effect themselves, and would call the prisoners and let them know whenever it was required of them to report back to prison. But then one month and 20 days before the [Persian] New Year they called and said, ‘Why haven’t you come back? We will count this period of time that you failed to return as a leave of absence!’

So the time that they had verbally acquiesced to as an extension to furlough, they ended up counting as a leave of absence? When did you become aware of this?

The document that was given to Mehdi showed February 21, 2015 as his release date prompting us along with other families to make visits to the Prosecutor’s office. We said the time off was on furlough and you were the ones who told us you would call when it was required of them to go back to prison. After all a prisoner’s leave of absence doesn’t happen like this. One day maybe they don’t show up,; 5 days; 20 days; but no one will not show up for 160 days, especially knowing that the days will be counted towards a leave of absence. For Mr. Amoui they had tallied 140 days and for Masoud Bastani 120 days. Nobody would be a no-show for this long!

Did you not follow up on why they didn’t adhere to what Mr. Khodabakhsi had said? What is the end resul

We pursued the matter extensively and they finally agreed to count some of the days as time on furlough, but refused to concede about 15-16 days. His release should have been August 21st which is today but they added some time and announced September 7th as his new release date.

Did you have visitation with Mehdi on Wednesday? Did he not say anything about this issue?

He also said that his release date is August 21st but they have counted 15-16 days as a leave of absence therefore extending his release date to September 7th.

How about Masoud Bastani and Ahmadi Amoui?

Bahman’s release date was scheduled to be September 21st but 15-16 days were added, extending it to sometime in mid-October. And Masoud has a 6-year prison sentence, which makes his release date sometime around this time next year.

What do Zeynab’s daughters say and feel about their father’s freedom?

Regardless they are happy that their father is due for release after 5 years of imprisonment. Any child would feel the same way. Ultimately this child has her own narrative. From the time that she entered first grade in September exactly 5 years ago, her father was in prison. This year she enters the 6th grade and her father will come home.

Mr. Mahmoudian came home two weeks ago for only 4 days to tend to his ailing father’s affairs. How is his father doing?

His father isn’t doing well; he is mostly bedridden and has to be fed. Those 4 days were granted only because his father’s health had gravely deteriorated and while out he was only allowed to see his father. Unfortunately his father is not doing well.

Do you have anything else you would like to say?

I would just like all families [of political prisoners] to have some level of happiness; for [authorities] to not cause further distress to the families and to at the very least stand by their own words. Let them hear my voice, that when they say ‘you can go and we will take care of the extension ourselves and will call you when the time comes’ –  to not create problems for the prisoners later. So now after 5 years when he is ready to be released, it is still not clear if he is required to go back or not, if we should accept what we are told or not, if the prison officials will accept what we were told, or not. I am still not very optimistic. But god willing, we will see if he is released on Sepetember 7th or not.   Kaleme


Political activists summoned, interrogated and threatened in recent weeks

Committee of Human Rights Reporters – According to obtained reports, in the past weeks at least 50 student and political activists were interrogated and threated by Intelligence agents after being summoned via phone calls. The reports indicate that some of the warrants came with the charge of “propaganda against the regime.” The detained activists were required to post bail or provide a warranty to secure their release.

One of the activists who was detained last week said to CHRR, “I received a phone call with a summons order to appear at Nobonyad Square [in Tehran] but all of a sudden without warning I was arrested. Handcuffed and blindfolded I was transferred to the headquarters of the Ministry of Intelligence (per what I was told by the officials) and placed under preliminary interrogations. Per the interrogating officials, the files for political activists that originated during the events that occurred after the presidential elections are being reopened and reviewed for a renewed examination.

After the preliminary interrogations were done, a group of us were transferred blindfolded and handcuffed to a different area of the city. We were taken to Haft-e Tir Square into a building now designated for handling these cases. During our time in custody several interrogations took place focused on bringing up issues from the past, with efforts to generate fear and panic. This went on until I was released with a number of others after posting bail. Now we are to follow up on our court files and wait for our ‘divine punishment’ according to one of the officials.”

The building in Haft-e Tir Square, which is alluded to by the above activist, is the Mersad detention center. The Intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its counterparts used the facility in 2009 during the time of mass protests and widespread arrests in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections.


Salman Khalilpour transferred back to Rajai Shahr Prison

Committee of Human Rights Reporters – After a short release for medical treatment, Salman Khalilpour, leftist political activist and poet, was ordered back to Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to CHRR, Mr. Khalilpour was granted medical furlough on July 15, 2014 to undergo surgery on his right knee. He is now again behind bars in prison.

Salman Khalilpour was placed under severe physical and psychological duress during his interrogations when he was arrested. He was handed a 6-year prison sentence stemming from the charges of “acting against national security,” “insulting the leadership,” and “collaborating with opposition parties.”

Mr. Khalilpour, born in 1983 was detained due to his efforts to aid his brother who had been arrested and released on numerous occasions. In his dealings with government officials on behalf of his brother, Salman Khalilpour was dealt with violent hostility and ended up with injuries inflicted by Security forces during the altercations. After his arrest and a short trial, the injured activist was sent to Amol prison to serve his sentence. At the prison facility, Salman Khalilpour voiced his opposition to political prisoners being held among criminals. The enraged prison guards responded with violence resulting in severe injuries in Khalilpour’s fingers, legs and head before sending him to solitary confinement in Ward 3 of the prison.

The political activist was released after serving his time only to be arrested again during events leading to mass protests after the contested presidential elections of 2009. During the harsh interrogations, he was injured again in the legs, hands, back and waist. As a result of his severe hip and knee injuries, he was immobilized and not being able to walk, was hospitalized in the prison facility before being granted a short medical furlough for surgery.

Soheil Khalilpour, Salman’s older brother born in 1978 was also a leftist activist. He was arrested in 1999 following the student protests that resulted in wide spread arrests, disappearances, violent confrontations and raids in student dormitories. After spending 3 years behind bars in Evin prison he was released and following a short period of silence he again embarked on his political activities resulting in another arrest by Intelligence agents. After spending a few months in Sari prison, he was transferred to Amel prison to serve his sentence. When he was released, Soheil Khalilpour suffered from partial loss of vision, broken ribs, a broken nose, kidney issues, and multiple injures caused by torture and beatings.

Soheil Khalilpour was arrested again in 2009 during the time of mass protests following the disputed presidential election results. He was jailed in Amel prison after being charged with “acting against national security” and “relations with anti-regime groups.” After his release, on January 18, 2013 Soheil Khalilpour was kidnapped from the street and murdered by unidentified perpetrators. His dead body was located in front of Imam Reza Hospital in the city of Amol.


Salman Khalipour

The Gaza tunnels and prayers of political prisoners’ families

Kaleme – What is the reason for the frequent controversial and destructive inspections that take place in new shapes and forms recently? Many of these prisoners who have been held behind bars since 2009 relish a small amount of scant peace as they go through their days with patience and gentle resolve. Many of these prisoners used to be high-ranking members of the government, the private sector, or within their field of expertise – and have spent their best years behind bars apart from their spouse and family.

The prison personnel say that inspections are their right because they are searching for prohibited goods such as man-made weapons and drugs – even though they know very well that these types of items do not exist in the community of political prisoners. To say it in precise terms, they are searching to discover and destroy any means of communication between the prisoners and the outside world, the same way Israel claims it is attacking Gaza because it is searching for tunnels that could break the seize of Gaza.

However those who raid the ward do not take a fact into consideration; does a political prisoner not have the right to visit with his family? Is a father or a husband who has been separated from his family for years not have the moral and religious right to know about his personal and family affairs? Per the anecdotes of the Holy Prophet he insisted that even during the most religious times, warriors were not to be kept separated from their families and far from their homes for prolonged periods of time.

It is common knowledge that since 2009, the phones in Ward 350 of Evin prison, along with those at Rajai Shahr prison, have been cut off in contrast to other wards and the norm in all the prisons of the country where phone calls are allowed. The word of mouth is that the orders for these recent harsh encounters have come from a high-ranking government entity and it seems to be out of the control of the prison Warden or the Prosecutor’s office. However both the religious standards and the laws have been ignored during the offenses and violations of rights.

Regardless the clear question posed by political prisoners and their families to the decision makers in charge, many of whom were themselves political prisoners before the Revolution is the following: Is this type of violation in accordance with the law? Not holding the period of detention, the days and months as a criterion for consideration, isn’t the hardship and future uncertainty enough pain, so you trample their residences under the boots of the soldiers causing additional waves of grief and worry for the stressed out families?

Yes, unfortunately it has been years now that many noble sons of this country call prison their home. As one of the prisoners once pointed out, the years that each of them spend on a 2 meter bed costs a few times more than rented homes that would have to be changed every year.

Therefore is it not reasonable for the families to wish that at the very least these areas of residence are not constantly subjected to upheaval and turned into an unsafe environment? Is it not fair to ask that the mental well being of the prisoners is not imperiled with so called security projects such as dismantling the political ward and dispersing political prisoners to other wards among dangerous felons?

Sadly these days the aim for the families of political prisoners is no longer securing their freedom; instead it is demanding that at the very least their living situation does not continue to deteriorate and become more difficult. The families hope their loved ones are not transferred to undisclosed locations per the apparent plan that some of the hardline members of the judiciary have on the agenda.


Another attack in Ward 350 of Evin prison- destruction and confiscation of personal property of prisoners with intent to incite violence

One day after the transfer of a group of Ward 350 prisoners where only 62 prisoners remain, 60 security guards raided the ward and in the pretext of doing a search, they ransacked the area, confiscated personal property and destroyed the prisoners’ belongings.

According to Kaleme, while there is intense worry for the wellbeing and fate of the political prisoners in Ward 350, the pressure and ill treatment of the prisoners has been escalating on a daily basis. During the past weeks there have been various news of changes taking place in the situation of the prisoners. On Wednesday afternoon a score of security guards accompanied by the Head of the prison, Ali Ashraf Rashidi along with the Deputy Head of the Tehran Prisons Organization and his Executive Vice-President Javad Momeni showed up at Ward 350 of Evin prison in an unprecedented and very threatening manner, and personally took part in the violent search of one of the prison units.

In yesterday’s incident, which had the hallmarks of the bloody prison raid on April 17, per order of the Head Warden the guards while bearing in mind the ensuing protest after the last incident, transferred a number of the prisoners to a different area of Ward 350 and enclosed them in that area.

The reports indicate that the prisoners were kept in the enclosed area for hours where they were threatened and harassed rudely by the prison warden. The political prisoners impeded the violence from escalating and turning into another melee by showing restraint despite the behavior of the guards.

The violent inspection on Wednesday ended with the destruction of belongings and confiscation of various personal items belonging to prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. The prisoners who had been moved to another area were not allowed to go back to their own cells and were forced to stay enclosed in a different area under difficult circumstances with no access to their personal items and belongings.

After the massive search was conducted, the right to get outside air was banned for all the prisoners and they were not allowed to go in the courtyard.

During the raid, the security personnel along with hurling insults told the prisoners that the plan was to dismantle Ward 350 and send prisoners to other wards in the facility. Judging by the aggressive nature of these recent incidents, the type of attacks, violence, destruction of property and threats, it is likely that the Head of the prison along with the Deputy Head have orchestrated a plan of action to create chaos and cause havoc in the facility.


Activist Saeed Shirzad transferred to the quarantine section of Evin prison

Committee of Human Rights Reporters – Following 2 months since his arrest, Saeed Shirzad, children’s rights and human rights activist was transferred to the quarantine ward of Evin prison.

According to CHRR after being held in Ward 209 of Evin prison during interrogations for 2 months, Saeed Shirzad’s temporary detention was extended for another 2 months and he was subsequently transferred to the quarantine ward of the prison facility.

Saeed Shirzad was detained on June 2nd 2104 at his place of work in a Tabriz refinery. The reason for his arrest was not disclosed and he was transferred to the solitary unit of Evin prison for questioning and interrogations. During this time, Shirzad has not been permitted any visitation with his family despite their efforts.

Branch 16 of the Revolutionary Court is handling his case and even though no formal charges have been filed, Saeed Shirzad has been accused of allegedly partaking in human rights activities and collaborating with Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.

Saeed Shirzad had a prior arrest on August 21, 2012 after the Azerbaijan earthquake when security agents raided his volunteer campsite in the earthquake-stricken Ahar area in East Azerbaijan province. Shirzad was detained along with a few others as they were administering aid to victims and their families. The others were later released but Shirzad was held in Ahar prison where he embarked on a hunger strike in protest of his illegal arrest. He was released on bail pending his trial after 19 days of detention.

On January 9, 2013, Saeed Shirzad was sentenced to a one-year suspended term and 5 years probation. Judge Pir Abassi presiding over Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court handed down the sentence stemming from the charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “activities in opposition groups.”

Saeed Shirzad