For Translating a Book About Syria, Arash Ganji Must Serve 5 Years in an Iranian Prison
Arash Ganji, a translator and secretary of the board of directors of the Iranian Writers Association (IWA), must serve five years of an 11-year prison sentence that was upheld by the Appeals Court in Tehran on February 27, 2021. For translating a book about Syria, he was prosecuted on the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state” and “membership and collaboration with an organization opposed to the state.”
“The main accusation in the indictment was regarding Article 610 [of the Islamic Penal Code] concerning situations when two or more persons assemble and collude against national security, but Mr. Ganji is only one person, which shows that the sentence against him is without foundation,” attorney Nasser Zarafshan, representing the IWA, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on March 7, 2021.
Arrested by state intelligence forces on November 28, 2020, Ganji was prosecuted for translating and publishing a book about Syria’s Kurdish region, titled “A Small Key Can Open A Large Door”, according to Zarafshan.
In its statement on March 3, 2021, the IWA condemned the Iranian government’s ongoing suppression of freedom of speech and expression under the false charge of endangering national security.
“The prevalence of such practices in the judiciary has a long history, suggesting that it views culture and freedom of thought and expression as matters of national security,” said the statement.
It continued: “There are many poets, writers, artists and speakers who have paid the price … by imprisonment, censorship, self-censorship and job insecurity… The Writers Association strongly condemns the cruel sentence … against Arash Ganji and calls for his unconditional release as well as other prisoners of conscience.”
Ganji is the fourth senior IWA member to be prosecuted since 2019.
In October 2020, board members Reza Khandan Mahabadi (writer, literary critic) and Baktash Abtin (poet and filmmaker), as well as former board member Keyvan Bajan (writer) began serving prison sentences for peaceful dissent and opposition to censorship.
In December 2019, an Appeals Court upheld the six-year sentences against Abtin and Mahabadi while reducing Bajan’s sentence to 3.5 years. Based on Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which states that in cases where there are multiple charges only the sentence for the most severe charge should be served, Abtin and Mahabadi would have to serve five years in prison.
On February 11, 2021, IWA member Alireza Nouri was taken to the central prison in Hamadan, western Iran, to begin serving a two-year sentence on the trumped-up charge of “publishing obscene poetry in cyberspace.”
Previously, in September 2020, attorney Giti Pourfazel, an IWA member, began serving a 3.5-year sentence for signing a letter with several other activists calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Read this article in Persian.