Veteran Journalist Reporting to Prison To Serve Three-Year Sentence
Keyvan Samimi Sees Worsening Fear and Repression in Iran
The veteran journalist and political activist Keyvan Samimi must report to Evin Prison to begin serving a three-year prison sentence for his peaceful activism and reporting.
On August 21, Samimi posted a screenshot of an electronic summons from the judiciary ordering him to report to Evin Prison on August 24, 2020.
“I will go to prison and when I get out I will continue to live according to my ideals and beliefs,” Samimi told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on August 22.
“I’m not looking to build a political platform for myself. I’m more of an idealist and my actions are very transparent. I don’t believe in working in secret and that’s why I wrote about social movements on my Telegram channel. I know the authorities are sensitive about it. They call me a saboteur who incites riots, even though I believe in non-violence.”
Samimi, 72, is the Editor-in-Chief of Iran-e Farda (Tomorrow’s Iran) current affairs magazine, Editor-in-Chief of the banned daily paper Nameh (Letter) and board member of the Society in Defense of Press Freedom.
Years in Prison for Doing His Job
Samimi has spent many years in prison before and after the 1979 Revolution in Iran for his journalism and activism.
In May 2019, he was arrested at a Labor Day rally in Tehran and in May 2020, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to three years in prison for “assembly and collusion against the state.” On July 27, the verdict was upheld by Branch 32 of the Appeals Court.
“The main change against me is ‘assembly and collusion against the state’ for attending a so-called illegal gathering on Labor Day, which carries a prison term of three to five years. They gave me three years,” Samimi told CHRI.
“During interrogation, I was also accused of ‘propaganda against the state’ and ‘insulting the Supreme Leader’ after the interrogator reminded me of everything I had said and done in various cities following my release from prison in 2015. But I was acquitted of those two charges in court.”
Previously, in June 2009, he was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from political and cultural activities for 15 years for “propaganda against the regime,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.” He was released from prison in 2015.
Regarding that time, Samimi said: “After the 2009 [presidential election], there was a great climate of fear and self-censorship; politicians and civil rights activists were harshly suppressed and sentenced to long prison sentences.
Worsening Repression and Fear in Iran
He continued: “But when I got out of prison in 2015, I felt the level of fear among my friends and activists was even greater than before. I noticed that very few people were expressing themselves and even that’s not tolerated by the state.
“The authorities feel they need to silence individuals and hold the Sword of Damocles over their head or send them to prison in order to prevent [dissent] from spreading.”
Samimi added: “I have more than 50 years of political experience gained from contacts with civil rights movements, from teachers to labor activists and students… I have bonded and become one with my beliefs. I take them seriously. I don’t see politics as a hobby or second job. For 20 years, my full-time job, occupation and profession has been political activism and journalism. Prison will not stop me.”
The veteran journalist also said that during interrogation after his arrest in June 2009, he was offered freedom in return for a recorded “confession” and encouraged to leave the country. (The Islamic Republic has a long, documented history of extracting “confessions” from detainees under intense psychological and physical pressure or torture and then broadcasting those confessions over state TV in order to discredit them and justify their convictions.)
“They asked me to agree to an interview [in front of a camera] but I refused. They said I should leave the country and offered to pay my initial expenses. I said I won’t go abroad and will stay right here and fight. You accuse me of trying to overthrow the state; that’s your opinion. But I will continue my peaceful struggle.”
Read this article in Persian.