Court Finalizes Six-year Sentence for Writing a Letter to Mohammad Khatami
“When I presented my defense according to law, the Head of the Court said, ‘because your defense was presented in legal language, you lack honesty.’ I was astonished with this opinion and expressed my regret that the Head of the Court blames me for my adherence to the law,” Seifzadeh wrote.
Mohammad Seifzadeh, lawyer and co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, was charged with “collusion and assembly against national security” in 2011 based on a critical letter he had written to Mohammad Khatami. The court first reviewed this case on January 11, 2012, but Seifzadeh refused to attend the court review. The court convened twice more on different dates, but Mohammad Seifzadeh refused to attend the court sessions because he believed that his trial was illegal, each time only submitting his defense bill to the court. The court eventually sentenced Seifzadeh to six years in prison on these charges.
Asked what was in the letter to Khatami to lead to six years in prison, Seifzadeh’s wife Fatemeh Golzar told the Campaign, “There is nothing wrong with the letter. The investigative judge in the case even wrote that the letter included some good critical points. The main problem was that the letter was published on websites. They asked Mr. Seifzadeh how he had sent the letter outside prison for publication. This is the reason he was charged with ‘assembly and collusion against national security.'”
Fatemeh Golzar is also representing her husband as his lawyer. Asked whether Iranian laws define writing a letter and publishing it outside prison as a crime, Golzar said, “Such a thing is not explicitly written in the old or new Islamic Penal code, but in charges such as ‘acting against national security’ and ‘assembly and collusion,’ the judge has a lot of room to interpret whatever he wants with it and to say that he believes such and such actions are also ‘acts against national security.'”
She continued, “A prisoner can easily write a letter inside prison and send it out to be published. This is an issue I don’t understand. I mean, why is it possible for the prisoner [to write letters], and then they are punished for it?”
In another part of his September 29 letter, Mohammad Seifzadeh referred to charges that he had written a letter to lawyer Shirin Ebadi, which the court defined as “personal confessions” and used as evidence in the case against him. However, Seifzadeh denied having written this letter and stated that he knew nothing about it.
“When Mr. Seifzadeh was at Evin Prison, he had a severe nervous breakdown and they transferred him to a hospital, where they did an MRI on him, but they didn’t announce the results. After a while, when he was transferred to another hospital for treatment, we were told that he had previously suffered a stroke. In this process he has developed amnesia, to the point that sometimes he can’t even remember things such as the names of his immediate family. Regarding the letter addressed to Ms. Shirin Ebadi, he told the judge at his trial court that he couldn’t remember whether the words in the letter were said or written by him,” Golzar told the Campaign.
Golzar said she did not know the contents of that letter. Asked whether Mr. Seifzadeh would request a re-trial, his wife told the Campaign, “If he has any hope for a review, he will definitely ask for a retrial, but there must first be some hope for the review. If he asks me to I will definitely request a retrial.”
Fatemeh Golzar told the Campaign that officials will not release her husband unless he agrees to certain conditions. “They explicitly told Mr. Seifzadeh in prison that they would not allow him to leave the prison unless he cooperates about certain issues and accepts some things. We were happy when we approached the end of his second year in prison for his first case. He told me himself not to be too hopeful that he would come out,” she said.
In October 2010, Mohammad Seifzadeh was sentenced to nine years in prison and a ten-year ban on practicing law on charges of “acting against national security through establishing the Defenders of Human Rights Center.” He was arrested in April 2011 in the city of Orumiyeh on charges of exiting the country illegally, resulting in a second case against him. An appeals court reduced the sentence from his first case to two years in prison, which he served until March 25, 2013. However, while in prison, Seifzadeh was charged with “collusion and assembly against national security” for writing critical letters and signing several group statements—a third case. Four court sessions were held to review these charges, but each time Seifzadeh refused to appear in court to present his defense, because he did not consider the Revolutionary Court qualified to judge the case. In March 2013, the court announced an additional six-year sentence for the charges in the third case, which was finalized in this recent court session.