Dissidents Sentenced to Prison for “Insulting” Supreme Leader Facing Additional Charges
Dissidents who were sentenced to prison in Iran after calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are facing additional charges, an attorney representing some of them told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“They are also facing the charges of ‘disturbing public order and peace’ by holding a gathering in front of the judicial building [in Mashhad in August 2019] to protest the detention of [university professor] Dr. Kamal Jafari Tabrizi, ‘spreading falsehoods with the intention to disturb public opinion’ and ‘insulting the supreme leader’ through publications,” said attorney Mohammad Hossein Aghasi in an interview with CHRI on February 3, 2020.
“They will be prosecuted for those three charges… in a public court,” he added. “In other words, the current sentences are just a portion of their case. They could face more punishment.”
On February 2, 2020, Judge Hadi Mansouri of Branch 4 of the Revolutionary Court in Mashhad, Khorasan Razavi Province, sentenced eight people to prison terms ranging from 1-26 years on the charges of “forming an illegal organization” against the country’s security and “propaganda against the state.”
- Abdolrasoul Mortazavi, 26 years in prison
- Hashem Khastar, 16 years in prison and three years in exile in Nikshahr, Sistan and Baluchistan Province, plus a three-year ban on traveling abroad
- Mohammad Nourizad, 15 years in prison, three years in exile in Izeh, Khuzestan Province, and a three-year ban on traveling abroad
- Mohammad Hossein Sepehri, six years in prison
- Fatemeh Sepehri, six years in prison
- Hashem Rajaie, Gholamali Hosseinpour Gonabadi and Morteza Ghasemi, one year in prison each
“The truth is that my clients did not form any group or organization,” said Aghasi, referring to the existing sentences. “Requesting a resignation is not a crime. If you conduct propaganda with the intention to disturb the country’s security, that’s a crime. But I do not see any indication that my clients engaged in propaganda to endanger security. There was no danger to security. They did not commit any crime.”
“I am not denying that my clients did something,” he added. “They did, but it was not a crime. If unbiased judges with no ties to the state had listened to the prosecution, all the accused would have been acquitted. In this country judges are very attached to the state and that prevents them from issuing fair verdicts.”
The defendants were among 14 dissidents who signed a letter on June 11, 2019, calling on Khamenei to step down.
“The time has come for the people, thinkers, and caring individuals to lead a national movement by setting aside conciliatory tendencies that have facilitated the destruction of our culture, civilization and national wealth and with all honesty step into the ring and demand fundamental changes to the Constitution and the resignation of the Leader who is unjustly extending his authority on a daily basis,” the letter stated.
According to Aghasi, “The law states that it would be a crime to make a raucous and disturb public peace and order in a way that negatively affects people’s routine. But my clients were a few individuals who held signs next to a wall [in front of the judicial building in Mashhad in August 2019]. They did not disturb order and peace. There are even photos of them in the case file showing their protest. The charges against them are unfounded.”
Aghasi said the dissidents were charged with violating Articles 498 and 500 of the Islamic Penal Code regarding the formation of illegal opposition groups and propaganda against the state.
Read this article in Persian.