Authorities in Iran are prosecuting another writer on national security charges for signing statements and writing posts that criticized state censorship on the Facebook page of the Iranian Writers’ Association.
Reza Khandan Mahabadi, a member of the Board of Directors of the Iranian Writers’ Association, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that Intelligence Ministry agents who appeared at his home on April 29, 2015, had a search warrant for his home and a notice from the Tehran Media Court, in which he was accused of “propaganda against the state,” and “publishing an illegal publication.”
After a thorough search of the premises and Mr. Khandan’s personal belongings, some of his hand-written notes, archives, and books, and his cell phone and computer hard disk were confiscated. The agents told him he had to appear at the Intelligence Ministry for interrogations. Mr. Khandan subsequently attended three interrogation sessions. He is currently waiting for his court summons.
Another member of the Board of Directors of the Iranian Writers’ Association, the poet Baktash Abtin, [Link: http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2015/05/baktash-abtin-poet/] received similar treatment.
“Most of the interrogations were about the Writers’ Association’s statements and Facebook page posts. They said these are examples of ‘propaganda against the state.’ The [Writers’] Association’s Facebook page is no longer accessible by its members, and we are unable to post content to it,” Reza Khandan told the Campaign.
“As one of the most important goals of the Association is to defend freedom of expression and to oppose censorship, whenever something happens where freedom of expression is questioned, the Association issues a statement in reaction. For example, when newspapers are banned, or when individuals are prosecuted and imprisoned for their different opinions. The interrogators determined such statements as examples of ‘propaganda against the state,'” he added.
Regarding his second charge, “publishing an illegal publication,” Reza Khandan told the Campaign, “‘Andisheh Azad’ is an internal publication with very limited circulation among members of the Association, and it has no public distribution. It was first published in 1979 and about 10 issues of it were published between 1979 and 1981, before it stopped publication. It resumed publication four years ago, and since then, only nine issues have been published. Now the interrogators say this internal publication which is intended for members only, is a manifestation of ‘an illegal publication.'”
“They told me to promise that the Association’s publication and statements will stop. But I don’t consider myself a criminal, and I don’t believe I have done anything wrong, therefore I didn’t promise. I said that I am a writer and I oppose censorship. But it appears that I would have faced lighter charges, or I would have been released had I made the promise. I don’t know,” he added.
“Why should a cultural and civil activity expose individuals and their families to such worry and hardship? What is the reason for such threats against cultural and civil activities? Every individual must be free to think and work however he/she wants within civil society’s frameworks,” Reza Khandan told the Campaign. “I was interrogated, my hand-written notes and archives that had taken me years to collect were all taken away and it is not clear whether they will be returned to me, and that if they are returned to me, whether it would be all the notes or only a part of them. Such behavior disrupts people’s lives and it is an example of persecution,” he added.
Reza Khandan Mahabadi, a writer and literary critic, was elected to the Board of Directors of the Iran Writers’ Association in September 2014, along with Hassan Asghari, Ali Ashraf Darvishian, Baktash Abtin, and Mehdi Ghebrai.
Baktash Abtin was also interrogated in April and May, and is now awaiting his trial date and summons to the Evin Prison Courts. [Link: http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2015/05/baktash-abtin-poet/]