Reformists Look On as Former Rouhani Campaign Manager Ordered to Serve Two-Year in Prison For Poem
High School Teacher Prosecuted For Satirical Poem About Shia Imam
A former campaign manager for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been ordered to serve a two-year prison sentence for reading a satirical poem at a campaign rally.
The Appeals Court upheld the sentence and a suspended three-year prison term against Ali Mohammad Mohammadi for the charge of “insulting the sacred,” his lawyer Mohammad Zam told the Judiciary’s official news agency, Mizan, on April 25, 2018.
In April 2017, the 50-year-old high school chemistry teacher read the poem at a rally in Eyvan-e Gharb, Ilam Province, lightheartedly complaining to Ali Ibn Mousa al-Reza (765-818 AD), one of Shia Islam’s most revered imams, for backing conservative politicians.
“There was nothing insulting in the letter. His arrest was politically motivated to impact the elections,” a source with knowledge of the case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on October 23, 2017.
The source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said Mohammadi was targeted by supporters of former conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, Rouhani’s main election rival.
“Some of Raisi’s campaign advisers, along with his supporters within the Revolutionary Guards, went over to religious leaders and told them that Mohammadi had insulted Imam Reza and they agreed,” said the source. “So the court convicted him despite Mohammadi’s denials and his religious background.”
In the days following the rally, several senior religious leaders, including Grand Ayatollahs Nasser Makarem Shirzai and Mohammad Ali Alavi Gorgani, called on the Judiciary to severely punish Mohammadi.
“I heard in the news that an evil man has gravely insulted the exalted Imam Reza,” Shirazi said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this vile, ugly act and expect the authorities to quickly prosecute and punish the perpetrator in order to protect the sacred space of the imams from defilement.”
Mohammadi did not receive any support or sympathy from Rouhani or his reformist supporters, some of whom supported Mohammadi’s prosecution.
A day after Mohammadi’s arrest on April 27, 2017, Rouhani’s Chief Campaign Manager Mohammad Shariatmadari issued a statement condemning Mohammadi’s poem for being “far from religious norms” and demanded he be “dealt with swiftly.”