Imprisoned Journalists Granted Brief Reprieve from Prison
After eight months in detention, newspaper columnist Afarin Chitsaz was released from Evin Prison in Tehran on July 5, 2016 on 10 billion rials ($324,000 USD) bail until her appeal hearing, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.
Two imprisoned reformist journalists who were apprehended on the same day as Chitsaz during a wave of arrests by the Revolutionary Guards were meanwhile temporarily released. Ehsan Mazandarani and Ehsan (Saman) Safarzaei were each granted three-day furloughs (temporary leave) to visit their families, according to the Campaign’s sources.
Mazandarani, the editor-in-chief of the reformist Farhikhtegan daily newspaper, had been on hunger strike since May 17, 2016 to protest the resumption of his interrogations and his transfer to solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 2-A, which is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. Mazandarani is also protesting the charges laid against him and the authorities’ refusal to free him on bail until the Appeals Court meets to rule on his seven-year prison sentence.
Mazandarani’s health has steadily deteriorated due to his hunger strike. Shortly after he was hospitalized following a heart attack, Mazandarani and his family were assaulted by a prison guard in his hospital room on June 10, 2016.
Chitsaz, Mazandarani, Safarzaei and the prominent reformist journalist Issa Saharkhiz—who was hospitalized on March 9, 2016 after being denied timely medical treatment for the effects of his successive hunger strikes—were all arrested by the Revolutionary Guards on November 2, 2015 and accused of being part of a foreign-instigated “infiltration” plot to spread propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Saharkhiz’s trial was postponed after his hospitalization. On July 3, 2016 he declared from his hospital bed that if the Judiciary continues to keep his case in limbo, he would demand to be returned to prison where he would resume his hunger strike, according to the reformist website Kaleme. He has been charged with “propaganda against the state,” “insulting the supreme leader and the judiciary chief” and “assembly and collusion against national security.”
At the time of the large wave of arrests, Revolutionary Guard-affiliated websites claimed there was a fifth “journalist” among the detainees. Months later the unnamed person was revealed as Davoud Assadi, a marketing manager at a private company in Tehran and the brother of the dissident Iranian journalist Houshang Assadi. Houshang Assadi, who lives in exile in Paris, told the Campaign in April 2016 that Davoudi Assadi’s arrest was a “warning to me and other political activists based abroad.”
Chitsaz, who wrote for Iran, the official daily newspaper of the government of President Hassan Rouhani, was beaten during her interrogation sessions in prison. Her mother, Maryam Azadpour, told the Campaign in May 2016 that she would be filing a complaint with the Judiciary.
“They blindfolded my daughter and beat her with a water bottle to get a confession out of her,” said Azadpour. “The abuse was not carried out by the main interrogator, who was very respectful towards her. But in any case, we will pursue this matter with the case judge.”