Appeals Court Upholds One-Year Prison Sentence Against Azeri Activist Convicted Without Due Process
An Iranian Appeals Court upheld a one-year prison sentence against Kiumars Eslami for his peaceful activism, alleging he engaged in “pan-Turkish” activities, according to a verdict issued on November 22, 2018, a copy of which has been viewed by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
The preliminary trial was held on July 16, 2018, at Branch 102 of the Criminal Court in the city of Parsabad presided by Judge Firouz Farahani without the presence of legal counsel, which Eslami was denied throughout the judicial process.
The 27-year-old from Parsabad in Ardabil Province, west of Tehran, was accused of using the term “Southern Azerbaijan” to refer to Iran’s East and West Azerbaijan Provinces.
The indictment claimed Eslami was a separatist leader whose activities were aimed at instigating ethnic tensions.
Turkish-speaking Azeris are mainly concentrated in Iran’s East and West Azerbaijan as well as Ardabil provinces. Iranian authorities have routinely exaggerated the motives of Azeri civil rights activists seeking their human and civil rights, including the right to teach their mother tongue in public schools.
Eslami was among several people arrested on July 5, 2018, during an annual celebration at Babak Fort, which is believed to be the historical stronghold of Babak Khorramdin, a ninth-century rebel who fought against Islamic rulers.
Eslami went on a weeklong hunger strike while in detention to protest being severely beaten during interrogations. He was released on bail on August 9, according to a source close to the activist who spoke to CHRI on condition of anonymity.
The final verdict, signed by Appeals Court judges Balal Mozaffari and Marhamat Shahbazzadeh, said, “The appellant did not provide any new evidence to dismiss the charges, nor did he present a compelling defense to explain his statements as well as information found on his phone and computer.”