Statistics regarding the number of citizens imprisoned for their political beliefs were not available, but human rights activists estimated the number in the hundreds, perhaps as high as 900. According to the ICHRI, an estimated 500 persons were arbitrarily detained for peaceful activities or the exercise of free expression, and another 500 prisoners of conscience had been sentenced to lengthy prison terms following unfair trials. On June 28, the ICHRI reported there were more than 200 political prisoners inside Ward 350 of Evin Prison, at least 120 of whom were imprisoned in the aftermath of the 2009 elections or as Green Movement supporters.
During the year the government rounded up students, journalists, lawyers, political activists, artists, and members of religious minorities (see sections 1.a. through 1.e., 6, and 7.a.). The government charged many with crimes such as “propaganda against the regime,” “insulting the regime,” and apostasy, and treated such cases as national security trials. According to opposition press reports, the government also arrested, convicted, and executed persons on questionable criminal charges, including drug trafficking, when their actual offenses were reportedly political. The government also reportedly held some persons in prison for years under charges of sympathizing with terrorist groups such as the MEK, which were often baseless charges. Authorities routinely held political prisoners in solitary confinement for extended periods and denied them due process and access to legal representation. Political prisoners were also at greater risk of torture and abuse in detention. The government generally placed political prisoners in prisons far from their homes and families. The government did not permit international humanitarian organizations or UN special rapporteurs access to political prisoners.
In a July 13 letter to UN special rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed, imprisoned journalist Issa Saharkhiz accused authorities of using harsh prison conditions to slowly kill political prisoners. Saharkhiz stated: “What is happening now in the prisons is a crime against humanity; it is just as bad as Stalin’s inhumane mandatory labor camps in Siberia.” Saharkhiz warned that the government’s objective was “to kill the protesting prisoners silently and gradually.” Referring to the death of two political prisoners, Hoda Saber and Mohsen Dokmehchi, he wrote: “They are deliberately trying to destroy us and have prepared a silent death for us because they fear our survival even behind bars.” Saharkhiz, one of the founders of the Society for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iran, was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the leader and the regime.” He was banned from political and media activities for five years and prohibited from leaving the country for a year. At year’s end he was at Rejai Shahr Prison and had not been permitted temporary medical leave despite severe health problems. Opposition Web site Saham News reported on August 29 that prison officials beat Saharkhiz on his way to the prison infirmary.
Authorities occasionally gave political prisoners suspended sentences or released them for short or extended furloughs prior to completion of their sentences, but they could order them to return to prison at any time. Suspended sentences often were used to silence individuals. The government also controlled political activists by temporarily suspending baseless court proceedings against them and allowing authorities to rearrest them at any time, and it attempted to intimidate activists by calling them in repeatedly for questioning. The government issued travel bans on former political prisoners (see section 2.d.).
On April 3, according to opposition media, police arrested Ghassem Sholeh Saadi, a Tehran University professor and former parliamentarian, based on a two-and-a-half-year sentence allegedly revoked several years ago. He was convicted of “insulting the authorities,” “acting against national security,” and “spreading propaganda to agitate public opinion,” based on a letter he wrote in 2002 criticizing some of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies and for giving media interviews on the same. At year’s end he was in prison. His repeated requests to authorities for medical attention were denied despite his worsening medical condition, a spinal injury resulting from alleged torture in prison.
On April 29, journalist Siamak Pourzand, age 80, who was held under house arrest in recent years due to his advanced age and health problems, committed suicide by jumping from the sixth-story balcony of his apartment in Tehran. In 2002 authorities sentenced Pourzand to 11 years in prison for “spying and undermining state security” and “links with monarchists and counterrevolutionaries,” after torturing and holding him in solitary confinement for months.
On May 3, the government arrested human rights activist Ashkan Zahabian so that he could fulfill a six-month prison term for disturbing public order and for organizing protests at his university. From December 2010 until his arrest, his family faced harassment from Intelligence Ministry representatives, including death threats. On June 13, the ICHRI reported that Zahabian remained in solitary confinement and on August 31, he had begun a hunger strike in Matikola Prison. Zahabian’s father told the ICHRI that prison staff had moved his son to solitary confinement after he began his strike, even though he was in a coma, according to other prisoners. His father added that Zahabian had experienced stomach bleeding for two weeks and authorities refused his requests for outside treatment. According to the ICHRI, he was subjected to torture during his incarceration and was housed with violent criminals. On September 22, Zahabian was released and at year’s end remained out of prison, suffering from stomach bleeding, liver damage, and other health issues resulting from his reported torture.
On May 4, a court banned Hassan Younesi, a reformist attorney and the son of a former minister of intelligence, from practicing law for five years and sentenced him to one year in prison. The sentence was upheld on appeal on July 4. He was summoned by Evin Prison authorities to serve his sentence. He went to prison and was released on September 29 on furlough. Forces arrested Younesi during the 2009 postelection events and detained him for a lengthy period of time in ward 209 of Evin Prison. At year’s end he reportedly was out of prison on furlough.
On May 15, a court presided over by Judge Pir Abbasi sentenced student activist Mostafa Eskandari to 31 years in prison. Authorities arrested Eskandari in 2009 while he was participating in a memorial service at the grave of Neda Agha Soltani, who was killed during the 2009 postelection protests. He was accused of various offenses, including diversion of public opinion, being interviewed by foreign media, and harming national security. During his interrogation he was reportedly violently beaten and tortured; reports stated that interrogators broke his nose and ribs. According to human rights activists, Eskandari was arrested with his wife, Kobra Zaghe Doust. She was imprisoned for two years, during which time she was also violently interrogated and forced to file for divorce against her husband after being threatened with a prolonged sentence of imprisonment. Prison officials prevented Eskandari from seeing his mother on December 16 and beat him when he tried to give her medicine for her failing health. At year’s end he remained in Gohardasht prison.
On June 1, according to eyewitness accounts, plainclothes police beat reform activist and women’s rights campaigner Haleh Sahabi, leading to her death from cardiac arrest. Sahabi had been serving a two-year sentence after being arrested outside the parliament in 2009, following Ahmadinejad’s inauguration. She had been released from prison to attend the funeral of her father, prominent political activist Ezzatollah Sahabi. According to eyewitness accounts reported by international NGOs, including a journalist and member of the Iran Freedom Movement, police interrupted the funeral procession and beat mourners, including Sahabi. During a June 14 press conference, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi denied authorities had any role in Sahabi’s death. In mid-December Majlis member Ali Motahari publicly admitted that the authorities “did not want her to die, and what happened was a result of a lack of attention [by the agents].” At year’s end there had been no investigation.
On June 3, the family of imprisoned journalist Masoud Bastani reported that a prison guard beat him in front of them after Bastani asked for more time to say goodbye at the end of visiting hours in Rejai Shahr prison. According to the family, hospital staff later told them he arrived unconscious and was treated for minor head injuries. On June 9, prison officials reportedly transferred him to solitary confinement, where he later went on a hunger strike to protest the deaths of Hoda Saber and Haleh Sahabi in prison. Security forces arrested Bastani in 2009; he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for propaganda against the government, creating unrest, and disturbing public order. At year’s end he was in prison. His wife, Mahsa Amrabadi, also a journalist, was arrested during March 1 protests in Tehran. She was detained in Evin Prison and released on bail on March 16. On June 16, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Moghiseh sentenced Amrabadi to one year in prison for her antiregime interviews and reporting.
On June 12, according to opposition Web sites, journalist and rights activist Reza Hoda Saber died of a heart attack reportedly brought on by a 10-day hunger strike and beatings by prison authorities without proper medical attention. On June 13, 64 political prisoners in Evin Prison’s ward 350 released a statement blaming Hoda Saber’s death on abuse by prison authorities. Kaleme reported that Hoda Saber began the strike after Haleh Sahabi died at the funeral of her father on June 1. Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei immediately refuted allegations that Hoda Saber died as a result of the hunger strike or beatings. On June 14, he announced an investigation and stated that his office was awaiting statements from the prison authorities. The Tehran Prosecutor’s Office gave a press conference at the same time stating that the prison officials may not have reacted quickly enough to Saber’s health complaints. At year’s end no further information on the investigation was available. Saber had been serving a 10-year sentence. He was initially arrested in 2000, then released, but detained again during the 2009 postelection crackdown.
From June 12 to July 9, the government detained Mansoureh Behkish, a member of the Mourning Mothers, an organization against execution of prisoners, in Evin Prison. She was previously detained in January 2010, as well as in 2008 and 2009. She is prohibited from leaving the country. Several other members of Mourning Mothers were imprisoned during the year. Parvin Mohktare, mother of Kouhyar Goudarzi, was sentenced to 23 months following her August 6 arrest for protesting her son’s imprisonment. She remained in prison at year’s end. Zhila Mahdavian was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for protesting her son’s imprisonment for his involvement in post-2009 election protests. She was later released on bail and remained out of prison at year’s end. Zhila Karamzableh, a poet, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for writing a poem for Mourning Mothers. She began serving her sentence on December 27 and was in prison at year’s end. March media reports indicated that Mourning Mothers member Hakimeh Shokri remained in prison with deteriorating health. In December 2010 authorities arrested Shokri at Behesht Zahara Cemetery along with several other mothers celebrating the birthday anniversary of one of the protesters killed during the 2009 Ashura protests.
On June 15, Mehdi Tajik began his two-year prison sentence in Evin Prison. Tajik, a graduate student at University of Tehran and an outspoken student activist and journalist, was also banned from political activity and journalism for 15 years. He was arrested in his home following the mass Ashura protests in 2009 for founding a student activist organization. He was released in March 2010 on bail. However, on June 15, he was summoned by the Evin Prison enforcement authorities to serve his sentence and remained in prison at year’s end.
On June 21, according to the ICHRI, Intelligence Ministry officers forcibly entered journalist and photographer Maryam Majd’s home, confiscated personal items, and arrested her a day before a planned trip to Germany to photograph the Women’s World Cup. On the same trip she was supposed to complete work on a book about female soccer players. On July 12, a source close to the family told the ICHRI that Majd had spent more than 20 days in solitary confinement and that she had developed digestive and kidney problems. She was released in late July on bail (see section 2.a.).
On July 8, according to HRANA, Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court in Khuzestan Province sentenced blogger Payman Roshan Zamir to 17 months in prison for “propaganda against the regime” and “insulting the supreme leader.” According to the ICHRI, during his May 14 closed trial Zamir did not present a defense to protest the unjust proceedings, including the closed nature of the trial, the lack of jury or representative of the Prosecutor’s Office, and fabricated evidence presented against him. He served one month in Karoon Prison, where he recounted the harsh conditions there to the ICHRI in an interview. He was released on bail, and at year’s end he likely remained out of prison.
On July 10, security officials arrested actress and Green Movement supporter Pegah Ahangarani before she could leave the country to go to the Women’s World Cup, where she was scheduled to participate in related television programming. She was also released in late July.
In mid-September, according to several opposition Web sites, authorities arrested three state media journalists--Mehrdad Sarjouei, a writer for the international sections of the English language daily newspapers; Amir Ali Alamehzadeh, a journalist at the Iranian Labor News Agency; and Hadi Ahmadi, a journalist in the economics section of the ISNA--and detained them in Evin Prison. At year’s end they reportedly remained in prison pending charges and trial.
On October 11, the ICHRI reported that Ali Tari, a former IRGC member during the Iran-Iraq war and former Mousavi campaign director, returned to prison to serve his remaining six-month prison sentence for “publishing falsehoods.” He had been on medical furlough for his heart condition. The ICHRI reported that Tari’s situation in Mati Kola Prison was dire and that prison officials were preventing the delivery of medication for his heart condition. At year’s end he remained in prison.
In mid-October human rights organizations reported that security forces had arrested disabled war veteran and Mousavi campaign member Hossein Fayezi at his home and confiscated his personal belongings. At year’s end he remained incommunicado.
On December 17, blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki submitted a letter to the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office protesting his treatment in prison and at the same time began a hunger strike. Maleki was arrested in 2009 for blogging about the postelection protests. In October 2010 Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to 15 years in prison. According to interviews by family with the ICHRI, prison officials usually beat him after each letter he sent to the Prosecutor’s Office.
There were developments in several cases from previous years.
On February 8, a revolutionary court sentenced Mehdi Mo’tamedi Mehr, a member of the Committee to Defend Free, Healthy, and Fair Elections and the banned political organization, the Freedom Movement of Iran, to five years in prison for his political activities during the 2009 election. Authorities detained him after the committee published a statement about civil society institutions as election observers.
On January 10, an appeals court upheld a 10-year prison sentence and ban on political activities for Emad Bahavar, also a member of the Iran Freedom Movement. In 2009 authorities detained Bahavar for “spreading propaganda against the regime” by campaigning for presidential candidate Mousavi. At year’s end he remained in Evin Prison.
At year’s end student activists Mohsen Barzegar and Iman Sadighi were likely in prison. Their colleague Nima Nahvi was released on January 12 after serving a 10-month sentence. In February 2010 an appeals court upheld prison sentences for Barzegar, Sadighi, and Nahvi, and one-year suspended sentences for Hamid Reza Jahantigh, Hessam Bagheri, Siavash Salimi Nejad, and Ali Taghipour. The students, most of whom were also prohibited from attending educational institutions for one to five years, were convicted of “actions against national security” and “propaganda against the regime,” based on their alleged planning of and participation in protests and contacts with antigovernment entities. Authorities conditionally released Barzegar and Sadighi in July 2010, but in November 2010 police rearrested Barzegar at his home prior to National Students Day, allegedly without a warrant (see section 2.b.), and again during February 14 protests in Babol. According to the ICHRI, Barzegar informed his family of his poor health in solitary confinement at the Sari Intelligence Office Prison, but authorities reportedly refused to allow his family to bring him medication. On June 24, multiple news sources reported that Barzegar had been sentenced to two years in prison for acting against national security and insulting the supreme leader due to his participation in the February 14 protests. He was tried in absentia. In February various news sources reported that security forces had arrested Sadighi during student demonstrations in Shiraz and taken him to an unknown location. On August 29, HRANA reported that Sadighi had been sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities reportedly held him in solitary confinement for 20 days and tortured him into making a televised confession.
At year’s end Bahareh Hedayat remained in Evin Prison. She was convicted in May 2010 of “insulting the supreme leader” and sentenced to six months for “insulting the president,” and five years for “actions against national security, propagation of falsehoods, and mutiny for congregation.” News reports on November 3 indicated that six months were added to her sentence, which was up to 10 years because of earlier suspended sentences. On June 1, Hedayat’s husband was arrested during reform activist Haleh Sahabi’s funeral (see section 1.a.).
On January 24, authorities executed Jafar Kazemi (see section 1.a.).
On January 9, a revolutionary court convicted Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer and women’s rights activist, of “acting against the national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “membership in a banned organization,” namely Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi’s Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), and sentenced her to 11 years in prison and a 20-year travel ban. Following her sentencing, authorities arrested her husband, Reza Khandan, and detained him for a week. He was released without charge. However, in early October he was summoned again to the Evin Prison court for a letter he wrote to the Tehran prosecutor in 2010 regarding the conditions of his wife’s arrest. On June 8, the ICHRI reported that Evin Prison authorities had forbidden visits to Sotoudeh from her children in an effort to pressure her into a false confession. In early August a prison guard harassed Sotoudeh’s husband and tried to take away his notebook, which he had used to write down a list of items Sotoudeh needed in prison. According to the ICHRI, officials detained the family for five hours, during which time a female officer physically abused Sotoudeh’s sister. On September 14, Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court reduced Sotoudeh’s sentence to six years. On October 24, Khandan told the ICHRI that prison officials had banned visits because Sotoudeh had refused to wear a headscarf inside the prison, even though there are no laws requiring it. She remained in prison at year’s end, but it was unknown whether she remained in solitary confinement.
On March 31, RAHANA reported that authorities had banned family visits at Evin Prison for Mahdieh Golrou, a student activist and member of the Advocacy Council for the Right to Education who was convicted in April 2010 for interviewing with foreign media in a tribue to Students Day, acting against national security, and purported association with the MEK. She reportedly told the ICHRI that the MEK charge was “ridiculous.” On April 9, according to media reports, authorities moved Golrou to solitary confinement at Evin. On July 16, they reportedly released her on a short furlough. Golrou suffered from intestinal problems during her imprisonment.
During the year Shabnam Madadzadeh, a member of the Islamic Association and deputy general secretary of the student organization Tahkim Vahdat, and her brother Farzad Madadzadeh wrote separate letters to the UN special rapporteur for Iran criticizing the government’s treatment of prisoners, especially members of the opposition. Shabnam wrote that prison officials abused her and her brother during interrogations and held them in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. Human rights advocates reported that Farzad and three other political prisoners were subjected to “severe mental and physical pressure” from Intelligence Ministry officials after writing the letter. In January 2010 a revolutionary court sentenced the Madadzadehs to five years’ imprisonment for moharebeh and propaganda against the state. In late October Shabnam said she was being held in Evin, after having been transferred to Qarchak Prison from Rejai Shahr Prison earlier in the year, while Farzad had reportedly been transferred back to Rejai Shahr, where he was being held incommunicado.
On September 10, security forces arrested Abdolfattah Soltani (see section 1.f.).
On November 2, the trial began of ailing former foreign minister and secretary general of the Freedom Movement of Iran Ebrahim Yazdi on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “establishing and leading the Iran Freedom Movement” after being delayed several times during the year. At the trial opening, the 80-year-old Yazdi did not offer any defense; Yazdi’s son-in-law told the ICHRI Yazdi chose to remain silent because he found the Revolutionary Court unqualified to review the charges against him. According to his son-in-law, Yazdi remained imprisoned under house arrest, where poor living conditions were reportedly contributing to his deteriorating health. Authorities detained Yazdi at least three times after the 2009 elections, most recently on October 1 for allegedly participating in “illegal prayer” while he attended the memorial service for the daughter of a friend in a private home. During one of his imprisonments, Yazdi spent 50 days in solitary confinement. Yazdi was recovering from bladder cancer surgery as well as heart surgery, and his family believed his life was in danger because of the physical and psychological strains of imprisonment, lack of medical care, and unsanitary conditions. At year’s end he was out on bail for medical treatment.
On July 19, Branch 4 of Evin Prison Court summoned imprisoned student activist Abdollah Momeni to face new charges of “propagating lies” and “creating public anxiety” for a letter he wrote to the supreme leader in August 2010 asking him to investigate the use of torture during interrogations. On July 10, Momeni’s wife, Adinehvand, told Radio Farda that her husband was suffering from intestinal problems as a result of his recent hunger strike to protest the death of Hoda Saber. On November 4, she told the ICHRI that she was no longer permitted to visit him. Momeni, a spokesman for the country’s largest reformist student organization, the Office to Foster Unity, was arrested during the 2009 postelection crackdown and was sentenced to four years and 11 months in prison. At year’s end he was in ward 350 of Evin Prison.
During the year authorities continued to prevent an Iranian-American academic from leaving the country. He was initially arrested in 2009 on charges of espionage based on his association with the Open Society Institute and sentenced to 15 years in prison, later reduced to five years by an appelate court. At year’s end he remained under house arrest and under a travel ban.
On September 1, HRANA reported that judicial and prison authorities at Rejai Shahr Prison continued to deny medical care to former university student Misagh Yazdan-Nejad, sentenced in 2009 to 13 years’ imprisonment for participating in a 2007 demonstration. He was reportedly in critical condition with a respiratory illness. At year’s end he remained in prison in critical condition.
On January 26, Iran Human Rights Voice reported that authorities had released from detention Mohammad Ozlati-Moghaddam, head of opposition leader Mousavi’s veterans’ affairs committee. He was reportedly arrested in November 2010 for his connections to the Mousavi campaign.
November 3 media reports indicated that an appeals court upheld a six-year prison sentence against economist and journalist Saeed Leylaz for allegedly maintaining ties with foreigners, working to overthrow the government, and critizing the economic performance of the regime during 2009 postelection protests. He was released on bail in 2010, and at year’s end it was believed that he remained out on bail.
On June 20, IRGC-linked Jahan News reported that the seven-year sentence for Emaddedin Baghi, founder of the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, had been reduced to one year on appeal. On June 21, international media reported that the government had released Baghi, according to his lawyer. In 2010 Baghi was convicted of “propaganda against the regime” and “colluding against the security of the regime” in connection with an interview with the late grand ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri and his work advocating for prisoners’ rights. A revolutionary court also prohibited him from participating in political activity for five years. Authorities imprisoned Baghi on previous occasions since 2000 for his activities as a journalist and his campaigns against the government’s execution of juvenile offenders.
On July 27, the ICHRI reported that Atieh Tehari, the wife of Azerbaijani journalist and ethnic minority rights activist Saeed Matinpour, said her husband was suffering from untreated back problems in Evin Prison. He had also had several heart attacks. Authorities arrested Matinpour in 2007 for participating in a seminar in defense of Turkish-speaking citizens in Turkey. The court sentenced him to eight years in prison for “contact with foreigners” and “propaganda against the regime.”
On February 27, Evin Prison officials reportedly attacked and beat dissident cleric and regime critic Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Boroujerdi and forcibly shaved his beard. Some reports suggested Boroujerdi may have lost vision in one eye and that authorities did not allow him to leave prison to receive medical treatment. On October 1, human rights groups reported Boroujerdi suffered a severe heart attack, which led to pulmonary edema. Intelligence authorities reportedly rejected demands by prison officials for him to be treated at a properly equipped medical facility. In addition, sources told the ICHRI in April that Boroujerdi’s relatives and followers reported abuse and arrests by security forces. Forces in civilian dress allegedly attacked Boroujerdi’s sister Sa’adat and broke her leg, and authorities placed their brother, Seyed Mohsen Boroujerdi, under house arrest. The government also arrested supporters of Boroujerdi, including Iman Khodadai, who reported he and others had been beaten and abused while in detention. The followers also reported that security forces put their homes under surveillance and harassed them with threatening phone calls. Boroujerdi is a cleric who advocated the separation of religion and government; he was arrested in 2006. At year’s end there were continued concerns over his health and lack of access to medical care.
On June 28, human rights advocates reported that authorities moved Berouz Javid-Tehrani and three other political prisoners to solitary confinement at the IRGC prison and later transferred them to ward 209 of Evin Prison. Family members reportedly were not permitted to visit, and he was reportedly severely tortured throughout the duration of his imprisonment. He was retried in mid-October and was finally released on his birthday, December 26. Javid-Tehrani was imprisoned for his activities during the 1999 student uprising.
All of the following individuals were believed to be in prison at year’s end: writer and student leader, Amin Ghazain Tehran; reformist cleric and member of the reformist political group Islamic Iran Participation Front, Hadi Qabel; Office for Consolidating Unity spokesman, Ali Nikunesbati; former vice president, Muhammad Ali Abtahi; former interior ministry official Muhammad Atrianfar; intellectual and prodemocracy activist, Saeed Hajjarian; Kurdish and women’s rights activist, Zeinab Bayazidi; political activist and founder of the Iran Democratic Party, Abbas Khorsandi; and leader of the reformist party the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mohsen Mirdamadi.