New Charges of Espionage Filed Against Iranian-American Sociologist
(26 November 2009) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran expressed serious concerns about new charges introduced by Revolutionary Guards commanders in the prosecution of Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American sociologist.
“It appears the Revolutionary Guards are seeking to justify their severe repression since the June elections by ratcheting up baseless espionage charges against Tajbakhsh in order to demonstrate foreign involvement and make him a scapegoat,” said Aaron Rhodes, a Campaign spokesperson.
Earlier this week, Tajbakhsh was brought in front of the Third Branch of the Security Court, which is a new court created and controlled apparently by the Revolutionary Guards to prosecute dissidents. He was charged with new allegations of spying based on emails he wrote to Middle East specialists on the Gulf 2000 list, which includes hundreds of experts, diplomats, and journalists. According to information received by the Campaign, high ranking Revolutionary Guards commanders initiated the new charges against Tajbakhsh. He is currently held in solitary confinement in Evin prison and denied release on bail.
Tajbakhsh has been already sentenced to 15 years in prison by a lower court, which charged him with multiple counts, including “acting against national security, by membership in the internet network related to Gary Sick, a CIA agent, and other foreign elements with the purpose of urging people to riot in presidential elections; spying and connections with foreign elements against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic; accepting a consultancy position with the Soros Foundation aimed at the soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran; propaganda activities against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic by participation in illegal assemblies and causing doubt and giving impression of fraud and cheating in election results; and causing lack of public trust towards the official national organs and the ruling system by instigating rioting, mayhem, fear and terror within the society.” No evidence was presented in Tajbakhsh’s trial to support these grave charges.
“If an innocent man’s freedom and well-being were not at stake, the espionage charges based on participation in Gulf 2000 would be nothing more than ludicrous attempts to smear a noted scholar who has assiduously steered clear of political entanglements,” Rhodes said.
The Campaign fears for the health and safety of Tajbakhsh in view of recent judicial proceedings in dissidents’ cases that have contravened Iranian law.
On 11 November, Ehsan Fattahian, a Kurdish activist, was executed even though a lower court had sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The appeals court added the charge of Moharebeh, or “enmity towards God,” and issued the death sentence for Fattahian. Iranian law explicitly forbids appeals courts from increasing a lower court’s sentence. New charges against Tajbakhsh signal that a similar extrajudicial process maybe underway.
Tajbakhsh has been denied access to an independent lawyer and the authorities have restricted his legal representation to a court appointed lawyer, Houshang Azhari.
The Campaign called on the Iranian judiciary to immediately release Tajbakhsh and all other dissidents and activists who have been unfairly persecuted and prosecuted. The Campaign also expressed serious concerns that the Revolutionary Guards appear to be taking over judicial organs and manipulating them to permit extrajudicial detentions and sentences.