The Iranian Judiciary’s Outrageous Treatment of a Student Activist
The Iranian Judiciary’s pressure on dissidents and activists continues. The Judiciary’s lack of regard for Iranian laws and due process seems to have taken an unprecedented turn. In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Abed Tavancheh, a student activist and his lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan have shared the illegal actions of the Arak Prosecutor’s Office in confiscating Tavancheh’s family home. He also told the Campaign that he realized during his trial that use of the word “dictator” has been construed as “insulting the President or the Supreme Leader” by the Judiciary in his case.
The student activist’s lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the confiscation of his client’s family home prior to the appeal process is illegal. “Abed Tavancheh was found guilty in the lower court, but he has not yet been officially served with the verdict. [According to Iranian law,] the sentencing cannot be implemented prior to the decision by an appeals court. He was summoned by the Revolutionary Courts and informed about his sentence. My client asked for a copy of the sentence which was never sent to him or myself as his lawyer. The lower court’s decision has been regarded as the final ruling and sent to the Implementations Unit prior to an appeals process and without informing us of it. These actions are illegal,” Nasser Zarafshan said.
Abed Tavancheh who is a leftist student activist and a former member of the Amir Kabir University Islamic Association, was sentenced to one year in prison by the Arak Revolutionary Courts. The Arak Revolutionary Courts refused to serve Tavancheh with a written court ruling and Tavancheh and his lawyer refused to acknowledge the verbal serving of the ruling. Tavancheh’s lawyer has filed a complaint with the Judges Court regarding the conduct of the judge in this case. According to reports, the Judges Court has advised Mr. Zarafshan that the Tavancheh case judge, Omran Azizi, has refused to provide an explanation about his decisions. The Judges Court has therefore escalated the case to the province’s Justice Department for further review.
Tehran Security Police first arrested Abed Tavancheh in 2005 along with 13 other leftist student activists who participated in a Tehran Bus Drivers Union strike.
He and another student activist, Yashar Ghajar were arrested again by the IRGC Intelligence Unit in 2006. He was arrested again in 2007 and 2008 for his continued activism. His 2008 arrest led to an eight month detention. The lower court sentenced him to one year in prison on charges of “acting against national security,” “publication of falsehoods with the intention to create public anxiety, “insulting the government officials,” “insulting the President,” “insulting the Supreme Leader,” “insulting the Prosecutor,” and “insulting the judge.” Tavancheh told the Campaign that he was exonerated from the charge of “relations with the Zionist state of Germany.”
The deed to Abed Tavancheh’s family home had been supplied to the court in lieu of bail for his freedom. The Campaign asked his lawyer whether the set bail amount was proportionate to the charges made against Tavancheh. “I’m afraid these are all personal attacks on my client. When the suspect has not yet been served with the ruling, that ruling cannot be implemented. Actions have been taken to have this ruling annulled. None of the bail amounts determined during the recent years are proportionate to the charges. A complete diya, blood money, for an individual who is murdered is less than the amount of this bail,” said Tavancheh’s attorney.
“While I was in prison, they informed me of a new charge. The Court Clerk of Branch 5 of the Revolutionary Courts told me in prison that there is a new case against me. I objected and asked what crime could I have committed in prison? But they didn’t pay any attention. They issued a $70,000 bail for me. I couldn’t pay the amount at the time. My sentence had ended and they had no choice but to free me, so they reduced it to $50,000. They were supposed to serve written notice to me and my lawyer for this bail amount, but they never did. One day they called me from the Justice Department and said to prepare myself for one year in prison. Unfortunately, the Judge has developed a personal animosity against me. The deed was evaluated and the Prosecutor ordered the property’s confiscation by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Abed Tavancheh told the Campaign.
The Campaign asked Abed Tavancheh what actions on his part were construed as “insulting the government officials” by the court. “It seems any kind of talking or blogging is a crime. According to the Constitution, every citizen can interfere in the country’s affairs, but the Judge and this court did not believe this at all. [The Judge] cursed me and used profanities, saying ‘…. like you have no right for participating in such discussions. These topics are related to us. Governing the country is related to us and it is not related to you.’ I had written somewhere that I am against the death penalty and consider it state-sponsored murder. This was reflected in my case. I had also used the word “dictatorship” in several articles. They determined that the use of the word “dictatorship” was insulting the Supreme Leader and the President!” said the student activist.
Contrary to his friends’ advice, Tavancheh said that he does not wish to leave the country. He said he wants to save his family home right now in order to make sure his family are not left on the street, homeless.