Astronomical Bail Keeps Journalist In Prison
Journalist Hengameh Shahidi’s mother, Nahid Kermanshahi, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the $600,000 bail set for her daughter’s furlough is impossible for her family to raise leaving her daughter unable to make use of prison leave despite her critical health condition.
Kermanshahi told the Campaign that she goes to visit her daughter every Tuesday but has no good news for her. About her last Tuesday’s visit with Shahidi she said, “She was not well at all. They brought her back from the infirmary. She had a sharp drop in blood pressure. Her eyes were hollow.”
Hengameh Shahidi, journalist and adviser to Mehdi Karroubi in the 15 June 2009 presidential election, was arrested during post-election round-ups. She was released on 24 October 2009 after posting a $90,000 bail, but was returned to Evin prison after being sentenced to a six-year prison term.
In the aftermath of the events following the June presidential election, judicial authorities have routinely set astronomical bails, hundreds of times more than annual incomes of the prisoners. In practice, some of the prisoners remain in prison due to their inability to post bail, unable to use prison leave despite poor health. Shahidi’s bail is even higher than the one set for Sarah Shourd, the American hiker who was released before Ahmadinejad’s visit to the UN General Assembly. The bail for the young American woman was set at $500,000, and once it was paid she was able to leave the country.
“Worst of all was her mental condition. She’d say, ‘Why I am still here?’ She thinks to herself that I will not be able to come up with this amount, and so she’d stay there forever. I was ashamed, I swear to God. I was embarrassed for saying I couldn’t do anything again. This is the worst situation for a mother. She cried a lot, I felt so bad for her. She said, ‘I wish I were a bird; I could jump out and go out with my mother.’ I swear to God my heart aches. I swear to God I don’t know what to do; where to go and how to get this money. My Hengameh is in an awful place and I cannot do anything for her, for my sick daughter. This is the worst thing for a mother,” said Kermanshahi.
Nearly three weeks have passed since the Prosecutor announced the $600,000 bail for Shahidi’s leave. Asked about her expectations from organizations and legal entities, Kermanshahi said, “The first day I told her, ‘So why are you here? They should come and help you. Let me ask for help. Someone should come and help you.’ Really, why is she still there and nobody asks after her? I do not know to whom I should go. No one has showed up yet to help. Karroubi is also under surveillance and he can’t be visited.”