Audio Message From Gharchak Prison Reveals Intense Pressure on Labor Activist Sepideh Qoliyan
Mehdi Qoliyan Acquitted of All Charges After Violent Home Raid
On September 14, 2019, the BBC aired an audio file containing the voice of labor activist Sepideh Qoliyan saying that she was pressured to make a false confession by agents while held in Gharchak Prison in Varamin, south of Tehran, where she is currently awaiting the outcome of her appeal.
“You are hearing my voice from among 1,500 innocent women [in the prison],” Qoliyan said. “Last March one of the interrogators came into the interrogation room and made me an offer and said, ‘Sit in front of the camera with make-up, with any hair color you like, wearing your own choice of clothes, even without a headscarf, and say you were tricked. Help us make a film about how you were deceived and we will help you get back to your family. We will not give you another opportunity to go free.’”
On September 7, Qoliyan was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for her peaceful activities in support of Haft Tappeh sugar mill workers who’ve striking over the past two years for unpaid wages and unfulfilled benefits. She was detained twice in 2018 after publicly stating that she and Haft Tappeh union representative Esmail Bakhshi had been tortured in custody.
The source who spoke to CHRI said the Qoliyan family is hoping that her sentence will be overturned on appeal following Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi’s order to for recent sentences against workers’ rights activists to be reviewed by the Revolutionary Court.
“Did Sepideh Qoliyan commit something terrible to deserve such a heavy sentence?” said the source. “She is 24-years old and she has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison. She is not a thief, she did not embezzle funds, she did not commit murder or traffic [drugs]. All she did was participate in a protest rally in support of workers.
The source continued: “Participating in demonstrations without a weapon is not against the law. She showed support out of respect for her relatives, hometown folks and neighbors who worked at the Haft Tappeh plant. Why haven’t they been paid their monthly wages? Why are the retirees being denied their pensions? Other than protesting against this situation, what else has she done to deserve close to 20 years in prison?”
Qoliyan Family Files Complaints Against Agents Who Violently Raid Their Home
Qoliyan’s brother, Mehdi, was this month acquitted of charges filed against him for resisting Intelligence Ministry agents during a raid of his home.
“The agents who came to arrest Sepideh beat up her brother and dragged him into a car with his clothes covered in blood,” a source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on condition of anonymity on September 18, 2019. “They even gave his mother an electric shock. Mehdi was held in detention for 10 days and was constantly interrogated under inhuman circumstances.”
The agents broke Mehdi’s nose and two teeth, according to the source.
“First his mother filed a complaint against the agents for the electric shock and when Mehdi was released on bail, he also filed a complaint against the agents [for causing injuries] but so far it has not gotten anywhere,” the source said.
“At his trial [August 18, 2019], Mehdi Qoliyan denied the charges against him and asked the court to show a film recorded by the agents when they entered the home so that the judge could see that it was him who got beaten up and he did not tear up the judicial order,” the source added.
“Of course, the film was never shown but fortunately the judge acquitted Mehdi,” the source said.
According to the verdict handed to Mehdi Qoliyan’s lawyer on September 15, 2019, Branch 101 of the Criminal Court in Dezful, in Khuzestan Province, threw out the charges of “assaulting law enforcement agents,” “disobeying a judicial order,” “crumpling the judge’s order” and “uttering obscenities at judicial enforces.”
On January 20, 2019, Intelligence Ministry agents entered the Qoliyan family home in Khuzestan Province’s capital, Ahvaz, and arrested freelance reporter Sepideh Qoliyan. During the raid, Mehdi Qoliyan was detained for allegedly disobeying and insulting the agents.
Read this article in Persian.