The nine year prison sentence for student activist Bahareh Hedayat was recently upheld by an appeals court in Tehran. Hedayat is a member of the Central Council and spokesperson of the Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat student organization. In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, her lawyer, Mehdi Hojjati, shared some information about her sentence.

Bahareh Hedayat was arrested on 31 December 2009 and her nine year sentence was upheld earlier this week. Her sentence is two years in prison for “insulting the Supreme Leader,” six months for “insulting the President,” and five years for “actions against national security,” “propagation of falsehoods,” and “colluding for assembly”. Also an earlier two-year suspended prison sentence for participating in a 2006 gathering to protest discriminatory laws was activated by the court. Hedayat’s cumulative prison sentences total nine years and six months.

Regarding the lower court sentence which was issued by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Courts, Mehdi Hojjati told the Campaign,”We went to the court in person and learned about the ruling. The court did not give us a copy of the ruling. We prepared an extensive defense bill after that, objecting to the heavy sentence. We particularly objected to the fact that the lower court was unqualified to review the charge of ‘insulting the President.’ The presiding judge, however, believed that because he simultaneously headed Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Courts, and served as a judge in the General Courts, he was qualified to review the charge. Anyway, they did not take note of this objection. I brought up the same issue in the appeals proceeding. The case was forwarded to Branch 24 of Appeals Court. The law does not obligate the Appeals Court to invite the suspect or the lawyers. They reviewed the case in the absence of the plaintiff and defendant, which was legally permissible. The lower court’s ruling was upheld and confirmed word for word, sentencing her to 7.5 years for assembly and colluding against national security, insulting the Supreme Leader, and insulting the President; her two-year suspended term was activated as well.”

“Regarding insulting the President, there were no reasons provided in the ruling. Ms. Hedayat had merely quoted statements made by others. Though quoting insults may also be construed as a crime, imagine, if you will, that there were people outside the university chanting those slogans and they could be heard in interviews and reports by foreign media. This could not be construed as her opinion or viewed as her insult on a particular individual,” said Hojjati.

During her first visit with her husband last February, Hedayat told him that her charges were “participating in post-election protests,” especially on Qods Day (18 September 2009) and Ashura (27 December 2009), in addition to her activities at Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat and writing statements.

“The content of statements expressed by Ms. Hedayat were highly interpretive, while according to the 1999 Law, insulting words should be explicit, and words and phrases used must indicate that insult was intended, which we believe was not proven. In regards to illegal gathering and collusion, Ms. Hedayat accepts that she left her house on Ashura [December 27, 2009], but she left it for religious food offerings, not for the gatherings. She was not detained, she returned to her home [of her own accord], but the court did not pay any attention to this issue. Specifically, in legal terms there are two criteria for finding a person’s action criminal, one is subjective criteria, and the other is objective criteria, which in the objective criteria we only pay attention to external aspects and material elements of the individual, and we judge based on that criteria; while subjective criteria or the mental state of the person’s intent to commit a crime must also exist. The act that she committed was within the laws supported by the Constitution. For example, if she attended any gatherings, in accordance with Article 27 of the Constitution, there are no legal restrictions, and in this regard the psychological element and her ill intentions must have been discovered. This went unnoticed, too,” said Hojjati.

Hojjati also emphasized that medical leave requests by Bahareh’s family for treatment of her toothache and lower back pain have not been granted, “Now that Ms. Hedayat has been handed her definite sentence, she could request medical leave from inside the prison, and essentially there should not be any legal restrictions.”