Blogger’s Conviction Not Supported by Evidence
Immediate Suspension of Judge Salavati Urged
(29 September 2010) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today that the conviction and sentencing of Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan to 19.5 years in prison included academic connections as a basis for his charges, and should be overturned by an appeals court.
The Campaign further demanded the immediate suspension of Judge Abolghassem Salavati, who issued Derakhshan’s verdict, on grounds of deviation from judicial standards and procedures in this and numerous other cases. An informed source told the Campaign that Derakhshan’s lawyer did not have full access to his file in order to review its details.
“The Iranian justice system has become the laughing stock of the world with such a verdict and sentence,” stated Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign.
“We appeal to the Judiciary to right this wrong, and to suspend Judge Salavati who has amassed a long record of similar miscarriages of justice,” he said.
Sources close to Derakhshan’s family told the Campaign that a portion of evidence for Derakhshan’s alleged crimes consisted of a letter of recommendation for university written by Gary Sick, a Columbia University faculty member, that intelligence authorities claim demonstrates problematic connections with a hostile state. The content of Derakhshan’s blog, operated outside of Iran, is another basis for his harsh sentence.
Derakhshan was questioned in interrogations about his membership in a group mailing list managed by Sick, Gulf2000, which includes over 1500 academics, journalists, and diplomats, and experts from across the world. Gulf2000 serves as a place for Middle East experts to exchange ideas.
“That a letter of recommendation from Professor Sick, and membership on his list can contribute to a 19.5 year prison term is evidence in itself of gross judicial incompetence,” Ghaemi said.
After Hossein Derakhshan’s arrest, he was forced to make damaging allegations against individuals and political groups in videotaped confessions, according to the source. Derakhshan was also told that if he did not cooperate his parents would be arrested.
The Campaign has been informed that Derakhshan’s family members are under immense pressure to not talk to independent media or human rights organizations. According to the source close to his family, their home telephones and even internet communications are monitored.
Sympathizers wishing to show solidarity with Derakhshan by visiting his family were threatened not to go his home by Revolutionary Guard officers via text message.
The Judiciary’s fear of conducting a public trial with a jury, the announcement of his sentence in a courtroom without his lawyer present, and unofficial websites publishing his sentence before family members were notified, further indicate the political dimension of Derakhshan’s verdict. Sources told the Campaign that Derakhshan’s case file is being handled by the Revolutionary Guard intelligence organization. Derakhshan has consistently objected to the charges against him in court.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has previously named Judge Abolghassem Salavati as one of the “Men of Violence, Perpetrators of Post-Election Crackdowns” in Iran, for his illegal and political rulings aimed at achieving the objectives of radical segments of security and intelligence organizations. During post election show trials, Salavati has been one of only three judges in charge of post-election cases. He has sentenced more than a hundred political prisoners, human rights activists, and peaceful demonstrators to lengthy prison terms as well as doling out at least nine execution sentences, earning the nickname “The Judge of Death.”
Hossein Derakhshan was detained at his home on 1 November 2008. The source close to his family told the Campaign that Derakhshan spent nearly ten months in solitary confinement, completely isolated from the outside world, and was subjected to beatings to coerce him to make false confessions about having ties to the CIA and Israeli intelligence services. A relative of Derakhshan told the Campaign in October 2009 that he recanted his coerced confession in the presence of a judge and his lawyer, but the authorities continued to detain him without providing any information to his family regarding the judicial case against him. Derakhshan has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison without furlough for the past two years and authorities did not provide his family with any information about the charges against him. His family was only able to visit him twice during the first year of his detention. Last week a rumor circulated that his trial had ended and that the Tehran Prosecutor had requested the death penalty on charges of ‘propagating against the regime,’ ‘collaboration with hostile governments,’ and ‘implementing obscene websites.’ Members of Derakhshan’s family were not allowed to attend his trial.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran urges an appeals court to provide a fair trial for Hossein Derakhshan’s, in which he would have the opportunity to defend himself before an impartial judge against the blatantly political charges he faces. The Campaign also demands the immediate suspension of Judge Salavati from his judicial responsibilities and an investigation into his conduct in all trials held at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Courts.