Pressure on Northern Iran Students Continues: 8 Prison Sentences Upheld
Student activists have informed International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that an appeals court has upheld the prison sentences for eight Babol Norshirvani University student activists. According to the court document, Mohsen Barzegar, Iman Sadighi, and Nima Nahvi have received sentences of 10 months in prison and one year’s deprivation of education.
Hamid Reza Jahantigh, Hessam Bagheri, Siavash Salimi Nejad, and Ali Taghipour have been sentenced to ten months’ suspended imprisonment and Siavash Salimi Nejad and Ali Taghipour have been deprived of education for a year. Charges for all individuals are “actions against national security,” and “propagation against the regime.” Another student, Mohammad Esmaeelzadeh, has been sentenced to 91 days’ imprisonment and one year’s deprivation of education for “insulting the Supreme Leader.”
As a result of their sentencing, Mohsen Barzegar, Iman Sadighi, and Mohammad Esmaeelzadeh will soon go to prison and considering an already existing one-year’s deprivation from education ruling by their university’s disciplinary committee, with the additional one year’s deprivation they will be expelled from the university. The sentences were issued on December 9, 2009, but they was not served until February 25, 2010.
Background on students sentenced to imprisonment and deprivation of education
Most of these students are active members of Noshirvani Industrial University of Babol’s Islamic Association and members of Tahkim-e Vahdat General Council. During the Iranian presidential elections in 2009, most of them were active members of Mehdi Karroubi’s campaign organization in Babol. They were tried in the first group trial in September 2009, following the post-election events in Iran. Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat has condemned the sentences.
Mohsen Barzegar, 21, was the University Islamic Association’s Cultural Secretary, and Iman Sadighi, 23, was the Association’s Political Secretary. Twice over the past year, the two students have been deprived of enrollment by the university’s disciplinary committee. Last April they had gone on hunger strike to protest the disciplinary action. They were arrested at their homes on the afternoon of Thursday, June 18, 2009 and were transferred to Ministry of Information’s Mazandaran Province offices in Sari where they were detained in solitary confinement and interrogated.
Iman Sadeghi says: “I was at home that day. All of a sudden four plainclothes officers broke the door to my house and entered. One officer pointed his gun at me and another guy who was really big and I think he was an athlete hired for our arrest, attacked me. Both of them beat me up badly. They were punching and kicking me, cussing at me and yelling that I was serving the US and UK. They then took me to Babol Ministry of Information offices and tied me to a metal pole while blindfolded. At midnight they took me to Sari Ministry of Information Provincial offices.”
He adds: “They took all my electronic equipment such as laptop computer, flash memory, cell phone, etc…, and the articles have not been returned to me after eight months. I have almost given up on getting the items back. They even contacted some of my friends’ families and told them to prevent their children from socializing with me.”
Nima Nahvi is a 29-year old student who was the Operations Secretary at the university’s Islamic Association. Over the past year, he, too, was twice deprived from education by the university’s disciplinary committee. He went on a hunger strike last April to protest the ruling by the disciplinary committee. He was arrested a week after the first two students. Mohammad Esmaeelzadeh’s charges are not membership in the university’s Islamic Association. His charges are “blogging,” and “insulting the leader in his blogs.” He does not accept these charges and insists that he did not post any insulting material in his blogs.
Though these students’ charges have been stated as “actions against national security through participation in illegal congregations and exciting the public for participation in them,” as well as “propagation against the regime,” in parts of the initial ruling it says:
“…these students’ charge is not merely participating in street gatherings after the elections, but documents and reports submitted by the Ministry of Information show that they had telephone contact with MKO operatives, submitting reports and information on several occasions, and contacts with anti-revolutionary satellite channels for presenting the society and the university as lacking in security, convening meetings and planning toward mass congregations against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Suspects Iman Sadighi, Mohsen Barzegar, and Nima Nahvi in particular had widespread activities in this area….” In his defense of himself and his friends, Iman Sadighi says:
“Neither myself nor any of my friends were in touch with MKO and generally, Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat’s ways of thinking are completely different from the MKO’s. They don’t have a shred of evidence for proving this charge. None of these charges were mentioned during the trial, either. The judge asked me questions that were completely unrelated to my case, such as what I was studying at the university! I really don’t know how the judge arrived at his decision after he asked me such unrelated questions! Regarding the charge of contacting satellite TV stations, I was interviewed on BBC, VOA, and Radio Farda, but according to law, contacting foreign media is not a crime and they can’t imprison anyone for being interviewed.”
In its December 2009 report, Amnesty International has pointed out that these students’ trials were not in accordance with international trial standards. In parts of this report, on pages 57 and 58, it reads:
“Some of those arrested in relation to the elections, especially outside Tehran, did not appear on show trials but had separate trials. Some of them were detained outside the Judiciary’s authority and most of them had been tortured and abused, denied medical attention and access to their families and attorneys. Their trials were extremely unfair as trials in Iran’s General, Revolutionary, and other special courts are usually not compatible with international standards for trials.”
Iman Sadighi, 23, was one of those who was tried away from the show trials. He is one of the eight members of Noshirvani Industrial University of Babol who was arrested last September on charges of “actions against the Islamic Republic of Iran through participation in illegal congregations, exciting the public for riots, and propagation against the regime.” He was sentenced to 10 months in prison and deprived from continuing his education for five years.
Seyed Zia Nabavi, a “starred student” of Noshirvani Industrial University of Babol was also sentenced to 15 years in prison and 74 lashes by the Revolutionary Courts. He is currently in Ward 350 of Evin prison, awaiting his appeals court. A few days ago he wrote a letter to Sadegh Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary, saying that he had been beaten, tortured, verbally abused, insulted, and demeaned during his interrogation. He pointed out: “Since I was detained seven months ago, I have never seen a document pertaining to my arrest and if a warrant document for my arrest existed, it has never been extended.”
Hadi Ghaemi, the Spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has said about the letter: “This document provides significant evidence of how Iranian Judiciary doles out lengthy and unjust prison sentences for young people, without any evidence against them.”
In a February 23, 2010 letter to Ayatollah Larijani, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has recommended that this obvious shortcoming of the Iranian Judiciary in proving the charges made against Zia Nabavi be reviewed and to end these clearly unfair show trials.