Intelligence Office Summons Family Members of VOA Reporter
Sigarchi was accused of “espionage” and “acting against national security” in 2004 after he wrote a few critical articles and gave an interview to a Persian-language media outlet outside Iran. A lower court sentenced him to 14 years in prison and an appeals court reduced his sentence to three years. He served two years of his sentence until he was diagnosed with oral cancer and was released on medical furlough to seek treatment. He left Iran shortly thereafter. Sigarchi has been working at VOA since 2008.
After appearing at the Information Headquarters of the Gilan Intelligence Office, the journalist’s family and his wife’s family were threatened with confiscation of their assets, foreign travel bans, and imprisonment. In an October 2 letter to Hassan Rouhani, Sigarchi described the persecution of his family members.
“The interrogators first questioned them individually, then they interrogated my mother and my father-in-law together and vice versa [they interrogated my father with my mother-in-law]. The interrogators discussed several subjects and even handed a document to the families in which these points were written. For example, they asked that I resign my job at Voice of America and promise not to go to another media outlet, and to find a decent job for myself. They also threatened my family that if I should continue my activities, they would confiscate their assets, ban their foreign travel, and even imprison them. They also asked my father-in-law why he agreed to the marriage of his daughter to an anti-revolutionary. I mean, they remembered to ask this question after six years! They also told my mother, ‘If Arash doesn’t pay attention, we can harm him physically there [in the US],'” Arash Sigarchi told the Campaign.
“The interrogators told the families that if I don’t listen to their demands, they will summon other members of the family. A similar thing happened a few years ago, and the Security Units of the offices where two of my cousins worked summoned them and threatened them to severe their contact with me, ‘the anti-revolutionary,’ and they were intimidated into accepting this,” he added.
Arash Sigarchi told the Campaign that his mother was previously summoned to the Gilan Province Intelligence Office. “They summoned my mother almost once a year and during their talks with her, they threatened her to ask me to give up my job with Voice of America, but my mother told them that I have my own life and they have their own lives. But this time the threats were more intense and my wife’s parents were summoned as well,” he said.
Asked why the authorities are particularly sensitive to him, as compared to other VOA reporters, Arash Sigarchi said, “The main reason is that my trial and imprisonment happened in a smaller city and I was a guy from a smaller city myself, where my family still lives. I believe there is better observation of the laws in Tehran than there is in smaller cities.”
Asked about why he wrote a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, Arash Sigarchi said, “I wrote this letter to Mr. Rouhani because he is a president who studied law and claims to observe citizenship rights. The treatment of my family and that of my wife’s family is inconsistent with citizenship and Islamic rights. This treatment was not moral, either. I wrote in my letter that I have no interest in returning to Iran and I have no intention of separating from VOA or any other media, but this conduct is completely illegal and immoral, and I expect him who claims observation of citizenship rights to investigate it.”