Wife and Mother of Illegally Exiled Political Prisoner Die in Car Crash After Prison Visit
Tragic news about the deaths of the wife and the mother of an exiled political prisoner as they were on their way back from visiting him in Masjed-e Soleyman Prison has shocked Iranians worldwide. Nahid Rahmani, mother, and Ziba Sadeghzadeh, wife, of Amir Reza (Payman) Arefi, were on their way back from their monthly trip to Masjed-e-Soleyman (500 miles southwest of Tehran), where Payman Arefi is serving his 15 year prison sentence in exile, when they died in a car crash.
Payman Arefi, now 25, was first arrested in March 2009 on charges of supporting The Kingdom Assembly of Iran. Though he was in prison at the time of the protests following the disputed June 2009 presidential election, Arefi was put on trial at Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court on charges of interfering in the 2009 elections after he made confessions under torture about his involvement in the protests.
In his “confessions” at a post-election show trial, Payman Arefi “confessed” to having been present in the June 2009 protests, even though he had been in prison for several months when the protests began. Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court first sentenced Arefi to death; his sentence was later reduced to 15 years in exile at appeals level.
Another prisoner, Arash Rahmani Pour, was not so lucky. Arrested in April 2009 and tried in the same show trials where he, too, was forced to confess to things he could not have done, he was executed suddenly in January 2010. His defense lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told the Campaign only hours after his execution on January 28, 2010, “Arash’s sentence had no reason other than to create fear and intimidation. Despite what has been announced on the Revolutionary Court’s web site, Arash was not arrested in the post-elections events. He had been arrested in April, two months before the [June 15] elections at his home.” Sotoudeh also added at the time that Arash Rahmani Pour had provided his televised “confessions” under immense psychological and physical pressure.
According to Iranian laws, convicts can be sentenced to prison terms or to live in exile in remote locations, but combining prison sentences with exile is an illegal sentence the Iranian Judiciary has begun to implement against many dissidents, political prisoners, and prisoners of conscience in the recent years to further punish them. The practice also punishes the families of the prisoners by forcing them to travel long distances for their weekly visits with their relatives. Iranian laws also stipulate that prisoners should be sent to prison facilities near their places of residence, a consideration which is not observed in the cases of most political prisoners.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran demands that the Iranian Judiciary end the illegal practice of issuing prison sentences in exile. The Campaign also urges a judicial review of the rulings in the cases of dozens of political prisoners who have been sentenced to cruel punishments without access to due process.
The text below is from the Facebook page of Ziba Sadeghzadeh, Payman Arefi’s deceased wife, as reported by Iranian Journalist Jila Baniyaghoub.
“Cloudy weather, rainy eyes, the unforgettable memories of 2009:
After my visit with Payman, his mom and I were returning from the Evin [Prison] visitation hall. Because of stress and the worries we had, not only didn’t we feel well, it was even hard for us to breathe. Every day the environment became more tense than the day before, and our minds were more constrained than the day before.
On the way back, we were so depressed, we sought a little solace by looking at Evin from the top of a pedestrian overpass near the prison. Looking at Evin at least helped us feel closer to Payman…. Watching this scene, my mind was racing as fast as the cars underneath the pedestrian bridge. I was too weak to stand up, so I sat down on the bridge. I lost track of time. When I got up and dusted my clothes, my wedding ring flew out of my hand. I heard it hit the bridge and it fell down on the same road on which the cars were passing as fast as my thoughts. I should say that because of my weak state, I had become very superstitious. I had spent three months in detention. I had lost 14 kilograms, this is why my wedding band came off so easily, but I wasn’t willing to remove the ring.
At that moment I wasn’t thinking about anything other than the ring. All I was thinking about was how to find the ring however way I could. I ran down. I was crying and my eyes had become blurry, and I couldn’t even see where the ring had landed. Hours were passing and it was getting dark…. I could only feel the ground with the palms of my hands and my fingers…. Finally, with the help of a few people, I was able to find the ring. The ring was found, but it no longer looked like a ring. A car had driven over it and it had been shattered and cut in half.”