While the Coronavirus has been ravaging in various provinces across Iran, the regime’s security and judicial apparatus have heightened their persecution of minorities and political and civil rights activists.
In May, many prisoners who were temporarily released have once again been returned to prison, aggravating the already horrid conditions in Iran’s notorious prisons.
This is while there have been several cases of COVID-19 contagions, and even deaths from the virus in various Iranian prisons including Qarchak Prison, Urmia Central Prison, Sheiban Prison, Tehran’s Evin Prison, the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, and Mashhad’s Vakilabad Prison in northeastern Iran.
Prison sentences and arrests
There have been reports on numerous rights activists, lawyers and peaceful protesters who got imprisoned or brutalized in prison during the month of May. Some were handed down heavy sentences and others transferred to prison to serve their sentences.
An appeals court sentenced Nasrin Javadi, a retired worker to five years in prison. She was initially sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes. She was arrested on May 1, 2019, while attending a peaceful International Workers’ Day gathering in the capital.
- Sakineh Parvaneh, a political prisoner held in Qarchak Prison in Varamin, was sentenced to five years in prison and a two-year ban on membership in political groups. Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran issued the verdict on May 25, 2020. She started a hunger strike on the same day in protest of her prison sentence and the authorities’ failure to comply with the principle of separation of crimes.
- Somayeh Ramooz, a 37-year-old woman from Bushehr, announced that she was being transferred to the Bushehr Intelligence Detention Center on May 23, 2020. She was arrested on May 9, 2020 by the Bushehr Intelligence Office and was detained there for two weeks. Somayeh, a hairdresser, was arrested for her activities on social media.
- Mojgan Kavousi, Kurdish author and researcher was arrested on May 19, 2020, in the northern city of Nowshahr and was transferred to the city’s prison to serve her prison sentence. She has been sentenced to six years and four months in prison for taking part in November 2019 mass protests which was violently suppressed by the authorities.
- The Revolutionary Court of Tehran held an in-absentia hearing on May 13, 2020, against Jila Makvandi. Arrested in Tehran on November 12, 2019, the civil activist was sentenced to six years in prison. Jila Makvandi wrote, “I have been sentenced, in absentia, to six years – just as the IRGC intelligence interrogator threatened during the interrogation!”
- On May 19, 2020, Akram Rahimpour, the wife of Jafar Azimzadeh, imprisoned labor rights activist and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Free Trade Union, received a summons. According to the summons, Akram Rahimpour must appear at the designated branch to defend herself about the charges against her. Recently, Ministry of Intelligence agents threatened Akram Rahimpour during phone calls. Jafar Azimzadeh was subsequently taken to the court with a new case.
- Rezvaneh Ahmad Khan Beigi was sentenced to six years in prison by a Tehran appeals court. The political prisoner was charged with “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” Earlier, Rezvaneh Ahmad Khan Beigiwas sentenced by a Tehran court to 4 years and 5 months in prison, a verdict that was upheld in the Court of Appeals. In addition to the previous sentence, the political prisoner received a six-year prison sentence. She was arrested for taking part in November 2019 protests.
- Agents of the Revolutionary Guard brutalized and arrested civil rights activist Soheila Hejab, after attending an appeals court hearing on May 23. In a voice recording sent from Qarchak prison on May 25, Soheila Hejab, said her assailants held her by her hair, dragged her on the ground and kicked her before taking her to the notorious Qarchak prison.
- The Revolutionary Court of the northern Alborz province has sentenced human rights attorney Payam Derafshan to one year in prison and a two-year ban on practicing law. The sentence has been suspended for two years. The court has sentenced another lawyer, Farokh Foruzan to one year in prison and a two-year ban on practicing law.
- A court in Tabriz sentenced three political activists – Mehdi Sakhi Sakha, Afshin Barzegar Jamshidi and Majid Zabihi – to 4 years and two months in prison each.
- Labor activist Hirad Pirbodaghi was summoned to a revolutionary court branch in Tehran to serve a 6-month prison sentence. He was arrested in 2019 for attending a peaceful #IranProtests & sentenced to 6 months on the charge of “assembly & collusion against national security.”
Prison, flogging for protesting Iran’s downing of Ukrainian passenger plane
The Iranian regime has sentenced several people to prison and lashes for protesting Iran’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane.
- A Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Farhad Bakhshi to six months in prison for paying tribute to the victims. He had was arrested at a demonstration outside Amir Kabir University in Tehran on January 11, 2020. The Court has also sentenced him to one month of service in a Basij base and a handwritten 90-page research paper on the USS Vincennes guided missile cruiser.
- Tehran Revolutionary Court also sentenced Seyed Mostafa Hashemzadeh to five years in prison and 74. The ruling also includes three months of unpaid community service and a two-year ban on the entry of this Tehran University student activist to the university’s dormitory.
- The court also sentenced Ali Nourizad to three years and six months imprisonment.
- On May 18, 2020, civil rights activist Shora Fekri was taken to prison in Amol, Mazandaran Province to begin serving a five-month prison.
So far more than 16 protesters have been handed prison and flogging sentences in Amol alone. They had been arrested by the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization on January 12, 2020, in the city’s main square where they had gathered to commemorate the victims.
They included Shora Fekri, Mohsen Rezaei, Meysam Khalili, Mehdi Raei and Salman Farrokhi, who on April 24 were sentenced to five months each in prison for “propaganda against the state” by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Amol presided by Judge Morteza Mahdavi.
Eleven others – Amin Forouhi, Ali Shokri, Azadeh Javani, Aydin Javani, Ayda Javani, Alireza Mohammadnejad, Fereshteh Mahmoudi, Hossein Mostafania, Meysam Khodabandehlou, Hamid Mohammadi Irani and Mohammad Reza Shojaei – were sentenced to eight months each in prison for “propaganda against the state” by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court and an additional five months in prison and 20 lashes each ordered by the Criminal Court in Amol for “disturbing order.” The sentence issued by the Criminal Court has been suspended for one year.
All 16 individuals were denied legal counsel during their trials.
New Wave of arbitrary Arrests
In a new wave of crackdown in Iran, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the IRGC Intelligence Organization have begun arresting and summoning large numbers of young activists, especially the families and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Many have been sent to prisons, and some have been temporarily released on bail while signing a form pledging not to participate in any anti-regime activities.
Among those arrested were Ali Younesi and Amir-Hossein Moradi, award-winning students at Sharif University of Technology, who have been arrested and detained on trumped up charges of having ties with the PMOI/MEK.
Amnesty International on May 12, called Ali Younesi a “prisoner of conscience targeted solely for his family ties” and warning that he is “at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.”
In a statement on May 24, the NCRI, disclosed that MOIS and IRGC Intelligence Organization had arrested it’s supporters in Tehran, Mashhad, Neyshabur, Kermanshah, Sabzevar, Arak, Kashan, Mahshahr, Bushehr, Marvdasht, Amol, Ahvaz, Andimeshk, Rasht, Behbahan, Isfahan, Gorgan, Karaj, Tabriz, and Shiraz.
NCRI said: “MOIS, IRGC or their plainclothes agents raid people’s homes or offices and beat up those detained. They also confiscated the victims’ phones, computers, and many of their personal belongings and valuable items.”
Persecution of religious minorities
The Iranian regime has increased its persecution of Iranian religious minorities. Human rights groups have reported that despite the raging coronavirus crisis, several members of Iran’s religious minorities have been summoned, interrogated, and arrested.
- Shahzad Hosseini, a member of Iran’s Baha’i minority was arrested on May 5 and was taken to IRGC Intelligence Detention Center in Isfahan along with his son, Shayan who was arrested the day before. Earlier on May 2, Revolutionary Guards intelligence agents, raided the homes of Shahzad Hosseini, his son and his mother. The agents arrested Shayan and Shahzad Hosseini, was summoned to report to Isfahan’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Office on May 6.
- A Revolutionary Court in Shiraz has sentenced seven followers of the Baha’i faith to a total of 33 years in prison. According to the verdict which has been issued by the Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz on May 10, Shahriar Atrian, Navid Bazmandegan, Bahareh Qaderi (Ghaderi), Noura Pourmoradian and Soudabeh Haqiqat (Haghighat) to six years in prison each, Niloufar Hakimi to eight years and Ehsanollah Mahboub-Rahvafa to one year on charges of “propaganda against the regime and membership in anti-regime groups”.
- Two Iranian Baha’i women Soheila Haghighat and Shahnaz Sabet have been sentenced to an overall 12 years of prison on charges of “spreading propaganda against the state and membership in anti-government groups”.
- Two Baha’i women were sentenced to an overall 12 years of prison. Elaheh Samizadeh and Sudabeh Haghighat have been charged with “membership in groups that are against the state”. Baha’is are persecuted as a matter of gov. policy by the regime. Branch 105 of Shiraz Criminal Court later in May sentenced Elaheh Samizadeh, to one extra year of imprisonment and two years suspension from holding all governmental and public job.
- A court in Shiraz, sentenced two Bahai men to overall 12 year of prison. Farzan Massoumi and Farham Sabet were charged with “spreading propaganda and membership in anti-government groups”.
- Amin Zolfaghari, a Baha’i citizen in Yazd was arrested on May 21. The judiciary has issued a temporary arrest warrant for one month against him.