Two Poets Sentenced to Flogging and Nine and Eleven Years in Prison – A Tehran Revolutionary Court has sentenced the poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi …
The flogging sentences were a result of the charge of “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery,” for shaking hands with strangers (a person of the opposite sex who is not one’s immediate kin or spouse), according to Amir Raeesian, the lawyer representing Ms. Ekhtesari and Mr. Moosavi, who spoke with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“These sentences show that repression in Iran is intensifying,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Hardliners aren’t just going after political activists, they are determined to stamp out any social or cultural expression with which they disagree.”
The Campaign has learned that a third individual, the filmmaker Kayvan Karimi, was sentenced to 6 years in prison and 223 lashes on similar charges.
While many hoped for a loosening of repression in Iran with the election to the presidency of the centrist Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, this has not happened. Hardliners, faced first with Rouhani’s electoral win, and then with his administration’s achievement of the nuclear agreement, have pushed back, determined to maintain their primacy in the domestic sphere.
Parliamentarians, intelligence and security organizations under the authority of the Revolutionary Guards, and the Judiciary, all enjoying the support of the country’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, have worked as one to impose a security state in which dissenting views of any type are considered national security threats and prosecuted as such.
“The Iranian Judiciary is signaling it will brook no dissent, and appears intent to instill fear in the citizenry through these harsh sentences,” said Ghaemi. “Not only are the prosecutions of these poets a violation of Iran’s own laws and its international obligations regarding freedom of expression, lashing has been designated by the UN as tantamount to torture.”
The convictions in the two poets’ case were also based on forced false confessions, a routine practice in Iran in politically motivated cases in which there is no evidence against the defendant.
Typically, the individual is held in solitary confinement and subjected to intense psychological pressure, and interrogators, working hand in hand with Revolutionary Guard and judicial officials, extract the “confessions.” The confessions are then broadcast by the state-run TV, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), in order to defame the defendant in the public eye.
A source close to the poets’ case told the Campaign that during repeated long interrogations over more than a month of solitary confinement, Ekhtesari and Moosavi were forced to make confessions according to their interrogators’ specifications. These “confessions” comprised the main evidence used in the poets’ sentencing. Both refuted their charges during their trial.
“This ruling has no legal basis. We will appeal these rulings and we hope that the appeals court will overrule them,” said their lawyer, Amir Raeesian, who was served the rulings on October 10, 2015.
Fatemeh Ekhtesari, 31, a post-modern Iranian poet, was sentenced to seven years in prison for “insulting the sacred,” three years for “publishing unauthorized content in cyberspace,” and one-and-a-half years for “propaganda against the state,” totaling eleven years and six months.
Mehdi Moosavi, 41, a physician and a poet well known for his poignant poetry about social issues, was sentenced to six years in prison for “insulting the sacred” and three years for “possession of tear gas at his residence.” The so-called tear gas was the self-defense spray, Mace, for which he had a permit.
Revolutionary Guards Intelligence agents arrested Ekhtesari and Moosavi at their respective homes on December 8, 2013, and transferred them to solitary cells at the Guards’ Ward 2-A at Evin Prison. They were released on bail on January 13, 2014.
Judge Moghisseh, frequently handpicked by the Judiciary to preside over politically motivated cases due to his close ties with Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence officials and the harsh verdicts he hands down, presided over the two poets’ trial at Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Courts.
“Nowhere in their poetry are there any words or subjects which could represent ‘insulting the sacred,’ said the poets’ attorney, Amir Raeesian. “All books by these two poets were published with permits issued by the Ministry of [Culture and Islamic] Guidance. Also, the charge of ‘possession of tear gas’ is totally wrong. As a physician, he owned self-defense spray [Mace], which had the proper permit. Also, the charge of ‘propaganda against the state’ for Ms. Ekhtesari has no evidence in the case file.”
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