Reformist Journalist Targeted by Intelligence Agents Awaits Sentence After Kafkaesque Trial
Reformist journalist Farzad Pourmoradi is awaiting sentencing after being tried at Branch 103 of the Criminal Court in Kermanshah, northwestern Iran, on December 5, 2016, but the indictment for the charges of “spreading lies for the purpose of disturbing public order” and “insulting officials” did not specify what constituted the alleged crimes.
An informed source also told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that Pourmoradi, who is currently on bail, has been targeted and intimidated by agents of the Intelligence Ministry for advocating reformist causes, including as a volunteer for President Hassan Rouhani’s election campaign in 2013.
“At his trial on December 5, Pourmoradi’s lawyer Shahab Tajari defended him by noting that the indictment was vague, faulty and did not mention whom he had allegedly insulted,” said the source, adding that Pourmoradi denied all the charges and called for an independent investigation into his case.
“Pourmoradi was confined to his home after he was released because the Intelligence Ministry, without due process, annulled his employment contract with the Kermanshah governor’s office upon recommendation of the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization,” said the source. “After he complained about the Intelligence Ministry’s unlawful action, armed agents climbed the wall and raided his home on June 28. They threatened everyone and took away his wife, who was released after 24 hours.”
The former editor-in-chief of the Kermanshah Post previously worked as a journalist for several other news sites, including the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). He later became the administrator for the “Kalagh (Raven) News” channel on the social media network, Telegram. The website’s name sarcastically refers to religious hardliners in Iran who are often referred to as ravens because of their “sneaky” character.
“Pourmoradi was not told why he had been taken into custody until two days after he was detained. During the interrogations he was initially accused of having contacts with some unknown websites and questioned about the Kalagh News channel,” the source told the Campaign. “But later he was accused of being an agent of the West in Kermanshah and humiliated and threatened under interrogation for long periods. One time he lost consciousness during the interrogation, fell down, and was moved to his solitary cell by his handlers.”
“With all this pressure, interrogators wanted to force Pourmoradi to make a false confession about connections with the U.S., the Iranian opposition based abroad, and Persian-language foreign media. They wanted him to confess that he had acted against national and foreign security by providing information and intelligence about Kermanshah,” continued the source. “But he protested about his condition during his detention, and because of his weak physique he became ill as a result of long hunger strikes.”
“After being transferred to Ward 10 in Dizelabad Prison in Kermanshah, he was severely punished under terrible conditions so that he would give in to the interrogators’ demands, but he did not surrender,” added the source. “Finally, one of the interrogators identified as ‘Almasi’ formally charged him with ‘spreading lies for the purpose of disturbing public order,’ ‘insulting officials,’ ‘propaganda against the state’ and ‘acting against national and foreign security.’”
Political prisoners in Iran are often subjected to isolation, threats, and intense psychological and physical pressure to force them to make false confessions, which are then frequently broadcast by Iranian state TV to defame them and used in court as evidence for convictions.
Pourmoradi was arrested by Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization agents in Kermanshah on January 3, 2016 and held for 46 days before being released on bail.
A week after being released on 90 million tomans bail ($28,000 USD) on February 18, 2016, Pourmoradi was admitted to Imam Hosseini Hospital in Kermanshah where he underwent surgery for an infected gallbladder, according to the source.
Pourmoradi is also facing the charges of “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national and foreign security,” for which he will be tried by Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court in Kermanshah on December 27, 2016.