Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Our Voices Are Heard

Rooz (R): You appear to be the first person to receive the award of the Italian international committee on human rights. Why do you think a woman human rights attorney was selected as the first recipient of the award?

Nasrin Sotudeh (NS): This question has to be asked of the committee. But I think human rights are an inter-linked issue in the world. Some countries cannot be excluded from the expectation to observe and respect human rights. International attention to civil activists around the world stems from this view.

R: As a human rights activist and also a defender of if human rights activists in Iran, you have been a witness to the struggles of these advocates. What is your general assessment of the condition of human rights advocates in Iran?

NS: If I wanted to say it in one term it would be: Very dismal. Human rights defenders, particularly attorneys who have defended civil activists pro bono, have either ended up in jail or are exposed to repeated summons. This is despite the fact that exerting pressures on lawyers is illegal according to international law and the domestic laws of Iran. According to Iranian law, attorneys enjoy immunity in their work, similar to those enjoyed by judges. But this is something that is regularly violated.

R: What do you think is the impact of these awards on human rights activists?

NS: Bestowing these awards indicates the importance that the international community gives to Iranian issues and the acknowledges of such activities by public opinion around the world. This acknowledgment also carries a message to the effect that the international public opinion supports the human rights activists in Iran. The evidence of course are the prizes or awards that are given to civil rights activists in Iran, which are significant by virtue of their numbers and quality.

R: What is the impact of this domestically?

NS: You see, the purpose of the accusations and charges that are raised by dictatorial regimes against civil rights activists is to break their spirit. At the least they want to weaken their morale and waken their determination in their cause. Support from international public opinion indicates that the voice of Iran’s civil society is heard and is acknowledged by the world’s civil community. So I think this type of recognition by the international community strengthens the beliefs and convictions of activists in their work and efforts.

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Iranian Activists: Problem is Oppressive Government

Coinciding with Ahmadinejad's Visit to New York - 2008.09.23

Rooz Exclusive - Ahmad Batebi

Coinciding with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to New York, on Monday the Human Rights Watch office in New York held a press conference at a hotel across the street from the United Nations building with reporters from various major media networks in attendance.

In this meeting Akbar Ganji, Mehrangiz Kar, Hadi Ghaemi and Minky Worden, Media Director of Human Rights Watch, responded to reporters' questions about human rights conditions in Iran.

Mehrangiz Kar opened the meeting by providing a report on current human rights conditions in Iran, focusing particularly on the women's rights movement's achievements and vulnerabilities.

Akbar Ganji then shared his concerns and those of other human rights activists regarding the Western world's policies and announced, "We speak as human rights activists and our issues are different from those of Western governments. These governments are concerned with nuclear energy and enrichment suspension, whereas our problem is widespread human rights violations and confrontation with an oppressive government."

Ganji added, "Human rights and democracy are not important for these governments. Proofs of my words are the treatments of governments of North Korea and Libya. Colonel Qaddafi suspended his country’s nuclear energy project and then nothing more was said about human rights violations in Libya. We are concerned about a similar agreement between the governments of Iran and the United States. The two governments are negotiating behind closed doors, and although negotiations are good and we defend them, they must be publicly held."

A New York Times reporter asked Ganji about the Iranian people's unwillingness to act to change present conditions.

Responding to the question, Ganji noted, "In addition to numerous economic problems, the Iranian people also lack freedom and the government is trying to limit the scope of problems to economic problems. In our view, an authoritarian government is the source of all problems including economic problems and when there is no freedom no one can discern the source of the problem. In Iran, billions of dollars of oil revenues are spent on unknown projects and if people ask questions about them they will be suppressed. Our problem is the Supreme Leader's dictatorship. The Western world takes Ahmadinejad seriously, even though he is not an important player. In essence, he is the head of Supreme Leader's office and is considered to be the person who implements the Supreme Leader's orders."

A BBC reporter interrupted at this point, asking, "What is responsible for suppression of civil society activists: the administration or the regime structure?"

Mehrangiz Kar responded, "I do not think it is Ahmadinejad’s administration or its Intelligence Ministry that is suppressing civil society or women's rights activists. In the early years after the revolution the Iranian regime eliminated, in the name of Islam, everything that women had achieved in the years before the 1979 revolution. It was only during the reform era and Mr. Khatami's administration that non-governmental organizations became active and the present administration opposes them."

Ms. Kar added, "Women are not equal to men. Women must not ask for too much, they must not speak, according to the regime. This is the radical, religious policy-making of the Iranian regime."

The BBC reporter then asked Mr. Ganji, "Do you hold the supreme leader responsible or the president?"

Ganji responded, "In Iran, the supreme leader resides atop of an undemocratic structure. He governs like a sultan. Ahmadinejad has been in power for three years but even if someone other than him had been elected that person would have implemented the supreme leader's orders as much. The supreme leader has nourished this creature in its bosom and, hence, our problem is the undemocratic, sultanic structure of the reigime."

The Voice of America reporter asked, "If Ahmadinejad is effectively not responsible, then what is the use for asking him questions?"

Ganji responded, "Questioning Ahmadinejad means questioning the president, because he defends the Supreme Leader's positions. Mr. Khamenei has repeatedly claimed that this is the best administration that has been in power in Iran. If the president says something that seems to be irrational to us, it seems to be completely rational to the supreme leader. Every action that is taken in Iran has two aspects, a positive aspect and a negative aspect. If it is positive, it is credited to the supreme leader, and if it isnegative, it is blamed on the president. Ahmadinejad too plays this role very well. This is not a secret. For example, during the 33-day war in Lebanon Mr. Larijani announced that this war was fully commanded by Mr. Khamenei."

Mehrangiz Kar then responded to another reporter's questions regarding differences between Iran and neighboring countries: "Our conditions with respect to social development are much better than neighboring countries, because we have been in contact with modernity for 150 years now. Currently, we have a lot of potential for action Iran. For instance, there is currently an underground movement in Saudi Arabia to legalize driving for women, whereas we had that right ever since the introduction of automobiles to Iran."

Photographs by: Ahmad Batebi

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UN: Hold Ahmadinejad Accountable for Iran Rights Crisis

Executions Increase Almost 300 Percent, Persecution of Rights Defenders Intensifies

(New York, September 18, 2008) – Under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, basic human rights protection in Iran has deteriorated to new lows, Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a briefing paper released today.

The new paper, "Iran Rights Crisis Escalates: Faces and Cases from Ahmadinejad’s Crackdown," documents the dire situation for human rights defenders and key dimensions of the human rights crisis in Iran today. Released ahead of Ahmadinejad’s arrival at the opening ceremonies of the UN General Assembly, the paper highlights Iran’s status as the world leader in juvenile executions. Iran is known to have executed six juvenile offenders so far in 2008, and more than 130 other juvenile offenders have been sentenced to death and are awaiting execution.

"Iran’s determination to execute juvenile offenders in such large numbers is cruel, barbaric, and earns it a medal of shame," said Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of the International Campaign for Human Rights. "It is time to abolish the death penalty for children in Iran."

The report also notes the skyrocketing number of total executions under Ahmadinejad. In July 2008, 29 men were hanged on a single day, but the authorities announced the names of only 10 of them. The number of executions has nearly quadrupled under Ahmadinejad’s presidency, rising from 86 cases in 2005 to 317 cases in 2007 – almost a 300-percent increase.

Prosecution of dissidents for their peaceful beliefs and opinions has also intensified in recent years. Human rights defenders are routinely harassed and imprisoned for reporting and documenting rights violations.

"Iran should release all political prisoners and end its suppression of dissent," said Akbar Ganji, an Iranian journalist and former political prisoner.

Iranian authorities have systematically thwarted peaceful and legal civil society efforts to advocate for women’s rights. Women’s rights advocates have been beaten, harassed, persecuted, and prosecuted. "Despite harsh government repression, Iranian women are increasingly demanding their rights," said Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent Iranian lawyer and women’s rights scholar.

Ahmadinejad’s Intelligence Ministry has targeted Iranians who have active professional ties abroad, accusing them of being agents of Western efforts to instigate a "velvet revolution" in Iran. Three Iranians with academic ties to US institutions are currently being held and interrogated. Arash and Kamiar Alei are world-renowned AIDS physicians who have been in arbitrary detention since June 22, 2008. Mehdi Zakerian, a legal scholar who was scheduled to teach at the University of Pennsylvania this semester, was detained by security agents three weeks ago. The authorities have not provided any information about his situation.

"Arbitrary detentions of scholars harm Iran’s cultural and educational ties with the outside world," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. "Ahmadinejad should end the persecution of Iranian academics and intellectuals."

The paper concludes that the human cost of Ahmadinejad’s policies is registering a heavy toll on Iran’s most vital nongovernmental sectors. It is imperative for the international community to take up the opportunity of Ahmadinejad’s presence at the United Nations to voice its concerns about the increasingly grave human rights violations in Iran.

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Iran's Women's Rights Activists Are Being Smeared

Run Date: 09/17/08
By Nayereh Tohidi
WeNews commentator

Women's rights activists recently succeeded in stalling a bill to ease polygamy, temporary marriage and male-bias in divorce. But Nayereh Tohidi says a nasty smear campaign and continuous arrest show the adversity they are up against.

Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.[]

(WOMENSENEWS)--In Iran, the government of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently proposed a bill and, in Orwellian fashion, named it the "Family Protection Law."

If passed it would have threatened the stability, equilibrium, and mental health of families by reinforcing and facilitating polygamy, temporary marriage, and men's privileged position with regard to divorce.

The good news: A diverse coalition of women's rights activists and even some moderate clerics and politicians persuaded a judicial commission to drop some of the most contested articles and Majles, the Parliament, passed an amended version on Sept. 9. This version makes second marriage contingent upon the first wife's consent and does not attach any tax on the amount of dowry to be paid to wife in case of divorce.

The bad news: The amended family law and many other laws pertaining to personal status are still very male biased. Temporary marriage (muta), for example, remains a prerogative for married and unmarried men without even requiring its registration. Activists campaigning to change that those laws are still under attack, with five women recently sentenced to prison terms of between six months and four years.

A major sign of the negative climate is a wave of smear campaigns recently waged against those activists, chief among them Shirin Ebadi, the leading human rights lawyer. Similar campaigns in the 1990s were harbingers of homicides.

A series of articles published in early August by the official Islamic Republic News Agency made dangerous allegations against Ebadi, her family, and the Center for the Defense of Human Rights that she founded and chairs.

The articles charged Ebadi, a Women's eNews 21 Leader, with supporting sexual license, promiscuity, and prostitution. They called her a Zionist agent and alleged that the international Zionist Lobby was behind her winning the 2003 Nobel Prize.

The articles also claimed that Ebadi's daughter has converted to the Bahai faith, a dangerous accusation because Iran does not recognize Bahaism as a religion and its followers have faced severe discrimination and persecution.

Trumped-Up Charges

Several human rights groups, including the Nobel Women Initiative (founded by six female Nobel Peace Prize winners) have compared the accusations to trumped-up charges brought up by the same media against dissident intellectuals in the 1990s that led to several mysterious assassinations now known as "the serial killings."

Women's status in Iran is paradoxical and complex. Many rural women and those living in small towns suffer from old restrictions and practices such as domestic violence and "honor killing."

As for urban women: While economic necessity compels many to work outside the home, their employment opportunities are limited and often face discrimination and harassment. According to official records, in the course of the past year alone, more than 20,000 women have been attacked by "moral squads" and put under temporary police arrest for breaking Islamic dress code.

At the same time, Iranian women have made remarkable strides. Literacy rates among younger generations have risen above 90 percent, and a drastic decline in the fertility rate (now less than two children per woman) and improvements in health and life expectancy have paralleled strides in higher education and income generation. Women are now more than 60 percent of university students and are active in many non-traditional occupations such as medicine, law, engineering and architecture.

Women played a significant role in the reform movement of the late 1990s by massive participation in presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. But since then, women's participating in formal politics has waned along with the reform movement.

Laws Lagging Behind New Realities

Women's legal rights within marriage and the family--so-called personal status--have remained backward and at odds with their proven capacities. While women in Iran have produced best-selling novels and internationally award-winning films, barbaric practices such as stoning to death for adultery are still legal.

Two years ago, in August 2006, 200 women (and also some men) began a grassroots effort known as the "One Million Signatures Campaign" to change discriminatory laws. It was modelled after a similar 1992 campaign by Moroccan women, which produced progressive changes in the family law in that country. In Iran, the plan was to present one million signatures to the Majles and press legislators to enact equal-rights legislation. But continuous attacks and arrest of those collecting signatures have slowed the process and caused organizers to extend the two-year target.

Despite intimidation and arrests, this campaign has grown into a network of thousands of activists in more than 30 cities. It has also mobilized support among Iranians abroad and gained increasing recognition and solidarity among transnational networks of feminists and women's rights activists.

Appealing to Anxieties

To thwart such efforts from fuelling a counter cultural movement in the Iranian population--70 percent of whom are now younger than 30--the radical Islamists are appealing to traditionalists' anxieties about changing sexual mores and gender views. One recent article published in August in the state-run newspaper Keyhan called for "courageous and gutsy revolutionaries who can do the job" (i.e., continue to carry out attacks on the women's rights activists).

U.S. policy toward Iran and the continuous threat of military attack have further complicated the situation. In 2003 the allocation of $75 million in U.S. aid to Iranian civil rights organizations spurred the government to repress all voices of dissent. Any civil society organizations or individuals doing effective work toward democracy and human-women's rights were accused of being agents in a U.S. plan for regime change.

While the hard-liners and radical Islamists cast peaceful and transparent campaigns as national security threats, that charge is better applied to them. Their belligerent foreign policies have brought sanctions and economic hardship and created the danger of military attacks on Iran.

And while they blast off allegations of sexual license and prostitution against women seeking equal rights and egalitarian family relations they promote polygamy and temporary marriage, both frowned upon by the majority of Iranians. Many Sunni and even many Shii Muslims view temporary marriage as little more than legalized prostitution.

Iranian women's rights activists are contributing to a slow, persistent process of building a civil society grounded on egalitarian and democratic values that would nourish national security and peace with justice. Their efforts are not tied to any national security interest. They are part of a universal quest by civilized people for a peaceful and humane society.

Nayereh Tohidi is chair and professor of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, California State University, Northridge and a Research Associate at the Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA.Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at

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Iran: Fear of torture and other ill-treatment/ prisoner of conscience: Ramtin Soodmand

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 13/137/2008

12 September 2008

UA 258/08 Fear of torture and other ill-treatment/ prisoner of conscience

IRAN Ramtin Soodmand (m), aged 35, has two children

Ramtin Soodmand, a Christian who works for a church in Tehran and with youth groups,was arrested on 20 August. He is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and is being held in an unknown location. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately as he has been detained solely for his religious beliefs.

On 17 August, Ramtin Soodmand received a call from Ministry of Intelligence officials. The officials told him to report to the Ministry of Intelligence office in Mashhad, north-east Iran. Ramtin Soodmand told them that he could see no reason why the officials in Mashhad might want to interview him as he lives in Tehran, but eventually he agreed to go.

Ramtin Soodmand has not been seen since he went to the Ministry of Intelligence office in Mashhad on 20 August. Since being detained he has been able to make three short phone calls to his family. On or around 24 August, he made a phone call to his mother, who lives in Mashhad. He then made a second call to both his mother and wife on 31 August. The third call was to his wife on 6 September. On all three occasions, he did not say where he was being held.

His family have visited the Ministry of Intelligence frequently but have been unable to obtain any information on his whereabouts or legal status. The Ministry of Intelligence officials claim that his case is still under investigation.


Ramtin Soodmand’s father, Reverend Hossein Soodmand, was a Muslim who converted to Christianity in the 1960s, and became a Protestant pastor in Mashhad. He was hanged on 3 December 1990 in a prison in Mashhad after being convicted of apostasy; see Iran: Arrest and execution of a Christian pastor (Index: MDE 13/030/1990). He was also featured in Amnesty International's Annual Report 1991.

Christianity is a recognized religion in Iran, but evangelical Christians often experience harassment by the authorities. In recent months, since May, there has been an increase in the number of Christians arrested. Most of the arrests have taken place in Bandar Abbas, capital city of the Hormozgan province, Esfahan in central Iran, Sanandaj in north-west Iran and Kermanshah in western Iran.

Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution states: "The investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief." Under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching."

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English, Persian, Arabic or your own language:

- expressing concern that Ramtin Soodmand has been detained solely on account of his religious belief and is a prisoner of conscience;

- calling on the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, or charge him promptly with a recognizably criminal offence and give him a fair trial;

- asking why he has been arrested, what he has been charged with and where he is held;

- urging the authorities to ensure that he is not being tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and that he be provided immediate and regular access to his family, a lawyer and any medical treatment that he may require;

- reminding the authorities that freedom of religious belief is guaranteed by the Iranian Constitution, and by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.

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Iran: Prisoners of conscience and death row prisoners on hunger strike

11 September 2008
MDE 13/136/2008
Iran: Prisoners of conscience and death row prisoners
on hunger strike
Amnesty International is concerned about more than 50 imprisoned members of Iran’s Kurdish minority who are currently on hunger strike in prison in protest against continuing torture, executions and other gross abuses of human rights. There are growing concerns for their safety as a result of their hunger strike.
The hunger strike was launched by a number of prisoners on 25 August 2008. Reliable sources indicate that those protesting now include 15 prisoners who are being held in Sanandaj, 33 at Oroumiye, three at Saqqez and four who are being held in Tehran. The hunger strikers include three women’s rights activists - Zeynab Beyezidi, Hana Abdi and Ronak Saffarzadeh, all prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally – and at least eight prisoners who were sentenced to death after unfair trials.
The hunger strikers are calling for an end to the use of torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners and for an immediate end to executions and the use of the death penalty. They are also calling for better prison conditions and independent inspection of Iranian prisons by national and international human rights bodies, for an end to the use of internal exile as a method of punishing dissent and for an end to official discrimination against the Kurdish minority, including prisoners.
There is little to indicate that the Iranian authorities will accede to the hunger strikers’ demands even though the prisoners have termed their hunger strike ‘unlimited’. To date, the authorities have not expressed any reaction to the demands or to the hunger strikers themselves.
The prisoners’ demands reflect longstanding problems in Iran which affect the Kurdish minority and many others who oppose or criticise the authorities (see, for example, Amnesty International’s report, Iran: Human rights abuses against the Kurdish minority, published July 2008,
Amnesty International continues to call for an end to torture, executions and other human rights violations in Iran, including discrimination against Kurds and members of other ethnic and religious minorities. The organisation also continues to call for the immediate, unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including the three women’s rights activists who are among the hunger-striking prisoners, and for the suspension of all death sentences, including those against hunger strikers Arslan Oliya’i, Anvar Hossein Panahi, Habib Latifi, Farhad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili and Ali Haydariyan.

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Iran: Death Penalty: Bahman Salimian

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 13/134/2008
11 September 2008
UA 252/08 Death Penalty
IRAN Bahman Salimian, now aged 27; juvenile offender
Juvenile offender Bahman Salimian is at imminent risk of being executed. He was sentenced to qesas (retribution) by Branch 33 of the Supreme Court for the murder of his grandmother, committed in 1996 when he was 15 years old. His execution had been scheduled to take place on 28 August 2008 in Esfahan prison, central Iran. The execution was halted by the judicial authorities on 25 August to allow for furtherreconciliation attempts in order to negotiate a pardon from the only relative who still insists that the execution is to go ahead.
Throughout his trial, Bahman Salimian repeatedly claimed that his 70 year-old grandmother had talked of committing suicide so he killed her to minimise her suffering. On hearing Bahman Salimian's unusual motive for the murder the trial judge ordered that Bahman Salimian be psychologically assessed. Experts concluded that he was suffering from a psychological disorder and, accordingly, the judge sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment and the payment of diyeh (financial compensation, also called ‘blood money’) to be paid by his parents. Some members of the grandmother’s family appealed the sentence and demanded the death sentence for Bahman Salimian’s crime and Branch 33 of the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s verdict and he was sentenced to qesas.
On 25 August, the Head of the Judiciary of Esfahan province, Gholam Reza Ansari, announced that Bahman Salimian’s execution was to be suspended as two of his uncles had pardoned him. Gholam Reza Ansari ordered the relevant officials to try as hard as possible to obtain the pardon of the remaining uncle, which would spare Bahman Salimian from execution.
Bahman Salimian has spent the last 12 years in prison due to the disagreement within the victim’s family regarding his pardon or execution. Under the Iranian qesas law, if one member of the victim’s family refuses to pardon the accused and, the other family members have received the appropriate amount of diyeh, then the death sentence will be implemented.
Since 1990 Iran has executed at least 37 juvenile offenders, eight of them in 2007 and six so far in 2008.
The execution of juvenile offenders is prohibited under international law, as stated in Article 6 (5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Iran is a state party to and so has undertaken not to execute anyone for crimes committed when they were under 18.
In Iran a convicted murderer has no right to seek pardon or commutation from the state, in violation of Article 6(4) ICCPR. The family of a murder victim have the right either to insist on execution, or to pardon the killer and receive financial compensation.
For more information about executions of child offenders in Iran, please see: Iran: The last executioner of children (MDE 13/059/2007, June 2007),
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Persian, Arabic, English or your own language:
- expressing concern that Bahman Salimian is at risk of execution for a crime committed when he was under 18;
- calling on the authorities to commute his death sentence;
- reminding the authorities that Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which prohibit the use of the death penalty against people convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18

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Iran: Further information on Arbitrary arrest / fear for safety / possible prisoners of conscience / medical concern / torture and ill-treatment

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 13/135/2008 11 September 2008
Further Information on UA 262/06 (MDE 13/114/2006, 29 September 2006) and follow-ups (MDE 13/134/2006, 13 October 2006; MDE 13/134/2006, 11 December 2006; MDE 13/040/2007, 30 March 2007; MDE 13/074/2007, 15 June 2007) and AI Index: MDE 13/103/2007, 10 August 2007 - Arbitrary arrest/ fear for safety/possible prisoners of conscience/ medical concern/torture and ill-treatment
IRAN Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi (m), aged 50, Shi'a cleric
Massoud Samavatiyan (m)
Ali Shahrabi Farahani (m)
Ahmad Karimiyan (m)
Majid Alasti (m)
New names: Mehrdad Souri (m)
Mohammad-Reza Sadeghi (m)
Habib Ghovati (previously referred to as Ghouti) (m)

Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi continues to be held in Evin Prison in Tehran, where his medical condition has gravely deteriorated. On 10 September, Ayatollah Kazemeyni Boroujerdi's wife and the family lawyer went to Evin Prison in order for the Ayatollah to sign papers nominating the lawyer. They were denied access to Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi by the prison authorities. He and his detained followers may be prisoners of conscience, held only because of their religious beliefs.

On 2 September, his doctor wrote to Iran’s judicial authorities informing them of his patient’s urgent, multiple and complex medical conditions that require immediate medical care outside of the prison. The doctor submitted a diagnosis of Ayatollah Kazemeyni Boroujerdi’s heart condition, which is causing chest pains, suggesting that important arteries may be blocked. The Ayatollah also suffers from a kidney condition that causes considerable pain and he has lost around 40kg whilst in detention. He is also in a very poor psychological state.
Without prior warning Ayatollah Boroujerdi was summoned to appear before the Special Court for the Clergy (SCC) on 1 September. The SCC tried to force him to give an interview to a government newspaper recanting his beliefs and seeking forgiveness from Iran’s Supreme Leader.

He was sentenced on 13 August 2007 to serve one year in prison in Tehran, followed by ten years in prison in another part of the country. He has been repeatedly denied permission to seek adequate treatment for his medical problems. Ayatollah Boroujerdi is reported to have been repeatedly tortured and ill-treated since his arrest.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi advocates the removal of religion from the political basis of the ranian state. He was arrested at his home in Tehran on 8 October 2006 along with more than 300 of his followers, during violent clashes with the security forces. He and 17 followers were initially sentenced to death, but the death sentences were later dropped. In addition to his sentence of 11 years' imprisonment, Ayatollah Boroujerdi was also defrocked (banned from wearing his clerical robes and thereby from practising his clerical duties), and his house and all his belongings were confiscated.

Of the 77 followers of Ayatollah Boroujerdi who also faced trial, most have now been released although on 7 August, Habib Ghovati appeared before the SSC and received a four year prison sentence. The sentences and whereabouts of two other followers, Ali Shahrabi Farahani and Ahmad Karimiyan, remain unknown.

At the conclusion of their appeals, four other followers, Majid Alasti, Mehrdad Souri, Mohammad-Reza Sadeghi and Massoud Samavatiyan, had their sentences upheld by the SCC on 3 September. Majid Alasti was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment to be served in exile in Zanjan prison, 330 km northwest of Tehran. Mehrdad Souri and Mohammad-Reza Sadeghi were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and are now held in Evin Prison. Massoud Samavatiyan was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment to be served in exile in Khoramabad, Lorestan province, western Iran.

The SCC, which operates outside the framework of the judiciary, was established in 1987 by Ayatollah Khomeini to try members of the Shi’a religious establishment in Iran. Its procedures fall far short of international standards for fair trial: among other things, defendants can only be represented by clergymen nominated by the court, who are not required to be legally qualified. In some cases the defendant has been unable to find any nominated cleric willing to undertake the defence and has been tried without any legal representation. The court can hand down sentences including flogging and the death penalty.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Persian, Arabic, English, French or your own language:
- expressing concern that Ayatollah Kazemeyni Boroujerdi is not receiving adequate medical treatment, and urging the authorities to grant him immediate access to the medical treatment that he needs;
- expressing concern at the continuing harassment of Ayatollah Kazemeyni Boroujerdi because of his religious beliefs;
- calling on the authorities to ensure that Evin Prison authorities ensure that Ayatollah Kazemeyni has access to a lawyer of his choice;
- expressing concern that Ayatollah Kazemeyni Boroujerdi and his detained followers may be prisoners of conscience, who should be immediately released if not promptly charged with a recognizably criminal offence.

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