Iranian Authorities Go After More Members of Writers Association
Poet Amin Moradi Detained, Arash Ganji Released on Bail
Manufactured National Security Charges Used to Silence Free Expression
In yet another blow to the Iranian Writers Association, an independent group formed in Iran in 1968 to fight state censorship that is now banned, the authorities in Iran have gone after two more members of the association, arresting and detaining the poet Amin Moradi and prosecuting Arash Ganji, who is currently free on bail.
This follows the October 2020 incarceration of three senior IWA members, on bogus charges after unfair trials, reflecting the continuing assault on freedom of expression in Iran.
Lawyer: Amin Moradi Will Soon Be Facing “Typical” National Security Charges
The poet and IWA member Amin Moradi remains in detention since his arrest on November 28, 2020, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
“Security agents raided [Moradi’s] home and after a two-hour search, confiscated his personal belongings, including two laptops, a mobile phone and a number of books and transferred him to Evin Prison,” said an IWA statement on November 29, 2020.
“While expressing our concern regarding Moradi’s health during the widespread advance of the coronavirus pandemic, and considering that he is suffering from spinal injury and lung disease, the IWA demands that he be freed immediately hopes his family’s anguish will be alleviated,” it added.
It is not clear why the IWA member was arrested but his attorney expects national security charges will be leveled.
“There’s a big chance that Amin Moradi will soon be facing typical charges such as ‘assembly and collusion with the intention of disturbing national security,’” said Moradi’s attorney, Nasser Zarafshan, in an interview with CHRI on December 3, 2020.
The charge, often brought against peaceful dissidents, is based on Article 610 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code which states, “When two or more individuals collude and conspire to commit crimes against the national or foreign security of the country or prepare the facilities to commit the aforementioned crimes, unless they are regarded as mohareb, shall be sentenced to two to five years’ imprisonment.”
IWA Member Arash Ganji Prosecuted on Manufactured National Security Charges
Attorney Zarafshan said he is also defending another client – Arash Ganji, also an IWA member – who has been slapped with the same charge.
Ganji is the IWA’s official translator and administrative secretary whose trial was held at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on December 2, 2020.
“Some of the accusations in the indictment were untrue and lacked any evidence,” Zarfshan said.
“We had requested that the officials who put together the indictment appear in court and explain their justifications but they didn’t show up. Also, Mr. Ganji was dealing with a cold and as a precaution he didn’t come to court.”
Zarafshan continued, “It’s meaningless to charge my client with ‘assembly and collusion with the intention of disturbing national security’because there has been no actual assembly. What sane person would accuse him of assembly all by himself?”
Gangi was arrested on December 21, 2019, and released on 450 million tomans bail ($107,000 USD) on January 19, 2020.
After a hearing at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court on June 14, 2020, Judge Mohammad Moghisseh increased the bail to three billion tomans ($712,000 USD), forcing Ganji to go back into Evin Prison for another six days until he was able to pay.
Senior Writers Association Members Now Serving Long Sentences
These moves follow previous prosecutions and convictions of IWA members.
In October 2020, three senior IWA members – Reza Khandan Mahabadi and Baktash Abtin, as well as former board member Keyvan Bajan – began serving prison sentences for peaceful dissent and opposition to censorship.
They were sentenced in May 2019 to six years prison each on charges of “propaganda against the state” (one year) and “assembly and collusion against national security” (five years), for their peaceful actions including publishing documents about the IWA’s history and statements against censorship, and organizing memorial ceremonies for IWA members who had been killed by state agents in the 1990s.
Pen International condemned their incarceration.
“PEN International believes that the charges against all three writers are in violation of their right to freedom of expression, and is calling upon the Iranian authorities for their release,” it said in a statement on October 30, 2020.
Read this article in Persian