Imprisoned Journalist Denied Furlough, Remains with Hardened Criminals
Despite support from the Zanjan Province Prosecutor and prison officials, and repeated requests by family members, journalist Saeed Matinpour’s furlough for the Iranian New Year was not granted and he remains behind bars.
In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Matinpour’s wife, Atieh Taheri, said that officials encouraged Matinpour to request furlough for the Iranian New Year (March 20-April 2). “I followed up until the last moment, but in the end, they told us they had received a letter from the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office telling them to act according to the regulations, and “according to regulations” means that political prisoners are not to be allowed furlough for the New Year,” said Taheri.
Political prisoners in Iran routinely receive discriminatory treatment, such as denial of furlough normally granted to prisoners under Iranian law and denial of needed medical treatment. However, Matinpour’s imprisonment at the Zanjan prison alongside hardened criminals is evidence of additional punitive treatment in his case.
Saeed Matinpour, 37, studied philosophy at Tehran University and wrote for the Zanjan Newspaper. He was also an activist for human rights and ethnic minority rights. He was arrested on May 25, 2007, for participating in a seminar in Turkey in defense of the rights of Turkish-speaking people, and was later released on bail. Matinpour was re-arrested [link: https://iranhumanrights.org/2012/09/matinpour/] in July 2009 in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election, when hundreds of peaceful protesters, activists, and journalists were arrested. He was tried in Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court under Judge Salavati on charges of “connection with foreigners” and “propaganda against the state,” and sentenced to eight years in prison. He served his sentence at Evin Prison until September 28, 2014, and was then transferred to Zanjan Central Prison.
“There are no political prisoners inside Zanjan Central Prison, therefore Saeed is kept next to the other prisoners. He was at Evin Prison for five years. He had found friends, and the situation at Evin is a lot better than Zanjan Prison. I wrote several letters, asking for his transfer back to Evin Prison, but I never received a response,” said Atieh Taheri.
Matinpour’s wife told the Campaign that enforcement of Article 134 of the New Islamic Penal Code could see her husband’s prison sentence ended in the coming months. “Twice we asked for the enforcement of this article, and Saeed requested it from inside the prison, too, but we have not received any responses yet. If this article is not enforced, he will be released in September 2016, after he finishes his six-year sentence, but if it is enforced, he should be released over the coming months,” she said.
The New Islamic Penal Code was approved by the Iranian Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Commission in April 2013, and was approved by the Guardian Council on May 1, 2013, becoming law a few weeks later, but it has not been enforced.
In the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election, hundreds of citizens were charged with multiple security crimes such as “propaganda against the state,” “assembly and collusion with the intent to disrupt national security,” and “publication of falsehoods,” the combined punishments for which led to heavy sentences for these individuals. Article 134 of the New Islamic Penal Code, if enforced, would mean that prisoners will only serve the maximum punishment of their most serious conviction; therefore, under Iranian law, many prisoners should have been released by now.