In an exclusive interview with Rooz, Fatemeh Kamali, the wife of prominent Iranian writer and human rights activist who is currently in prison, pronounced that efforts had been underway for many years to break this journalist’s pen as a way to stop him from writing, but that Mr. Baghi had continued to remain a journalist.
At about the same time, Reza Khandan, the husband of imprisoned human rights attorney Nasrin Sotudeh was arrested and taken to prison, as Reihaneh Tabatabai and Mohammad Hossein Mozafari were released from detention. Farzaneh Roostai, Keyvan Mehregan and Adel Mohammad Hosseini have been asked to post bail for their release.
Baghi’s Wife: They are Afraid of the Pen
As Iranian journalists continue to be summoned to courts or security offices and face imprisonment, tens of journalists are serving their prison term in ward 350 of Rajaishahr prison in Karaj. Journalist and writer Emadeddin Baghi, who exposed the 1998 murders of Iranian intellectuals and dissidents by intelligence and security agents of the Iranian government, who is still considered as the head of the society for the defense of prisoners’ rights is among those in this prison.
The telephones of ward 350 have been disconnected for the past 7 months and so the only way prisoners such as Baghi have any contact with the world outside the prison wall is through short-term visitations with family members through a glass window separating the visitors from the prisoners.
Baghi’s wife Fatemeh Kamali told Rooz that her husband’s journalistic and human rights activities had all been within the confines of the law and that judiciary officials had not succeeded in finding a single illegal act on his behalf.
She explained that her husband is spending his 1 year prison term at ward 350 of Rajaishahr prison and that he has not been allowed any in-person visitations since the day he began serving his term. He has only been allowed the normal 20-minute window meetings with his family.
When Rooz asked why journalists were subjected to such harsh treatment, Mrs. Kamali, herself a journalist, responded by saying, “Some pens are problematic for some. In my own life I have been witness to efforts to break Mr. Baghi’s pen so he cannot write or express himself. And all this while they could not find a single action on his behalf that was illegal or one that violated any laws.”
Mrs. Kamali spoke of her husband’s human rights activities and said, “In recent years, any area that Mr. Baghi wanted to remain active in, was viewed intolerably by the regime and so they created problems for him. His human rights work, which is rewarded in most countries, is responded with a prison term here. When he writes or says that prisoners have rights that must be respected, it creates a problem for those in power. And this is true for other areas as well. He wanted to publish a newspaper, they could not tolerate that. He created a group to defend the rights of prisoners, and they shut the association. He is now serving a 1 year prison term because he tried to help the families of those who have prisoners behind bars and because he defended the rights of those prisoners. He has a six year prison sentence for an interview with ayatollah Montazeri, which is currently in the appeals stage. We are very pessimistic and in view of what has been happening in recent years do not believe that this 6 year sentence will be changed.”
Charging that “there is absolutely no grounds for holding Mr. Baghi in prison,” Mrs. Kamali told Rooz, “Just see how much pressure they apply on the families of this journalist, in addition to the prison term itself. I used to have a license for a publication which they revoked. I cannot even publish a book now. They said I cannot engage in these activities because I am married to Baghi. Then they shut my magazine and said that there were many complaints against it while we were unanimously ruled innocent. But they still kept the ban. They did not allow this issue to be discussed at the special Press Tribunal that investigates media violations. In fact, there are hands that prevent any activity or normal life from proceeding.”
When we asked what danger did Mr. Baghi pose as a journalist to the Islamic republic, she replied, “This is exactly what I have repeatedly asked the officials that I have been meeting. Different reasons have been given. Some say it is his books and his earlier writings. Some cite his contacts with ayatollah Montazeri and some even mention his own views. The key point is the impact that he has and that he is a journalist. Some not only dislike his activities, but find it impossible to tolerate.”
Political prisoners are denied even existing prisoner rights that have been recognized on paper by the Islamic republic. When we asked about this, Mrs. Kamali said, “We have heard this complaint not only from families of political prisoners but even families of regular hard-core prisoners. They too realize that they are denied their rights according to existing regulations, even though they receive better treatment than journalists or political prisoners. It is ironing that while the head of the association for the defense of prisoner rights has held numerous seminars and talked about the unacceptable practices of blind-folding prisoners, viewing visitations as a prisoners’ right rather than a reward, and other acts, he is now being subjected precisely to the same practices by the authorities.”
Mrs. Kamali pointed out that she had not been given a single in-person visitation, which she called a “cruelty.” She said that she along with her three daughters was given 20 minute conversation talk through a glass window, denying them the right to hug their dear one.
“When I see family members of university professors who are the pride of this nation standing behind windows to talk to their loved ones for a few minutes, I call for the destruction of the prison. I praise Mr. Baghi for doing work to defend prisoners’ rights which he began soon after his release from prison many years ago.
Nasrin Sotudeh’s Husband Arrested
Attorney Nasrin Sotudeh’s husband Reza Khandan was detained two days ago after he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office. Sotudeh has been behind bars since September 4, 2010 and was sentenced to 11 years of prison and a 20-year ban on practicing law, plus a ban on leaving the country.
Last Sunday, Mr. Khandan spoke with Rooz and announced that he had been summoned to the prosecutor’s office at Evin prison. He explained that the summons papers had explained the reason for the summons to be “to present some explanations,” adding they did not cite the specific charges and that he did not know the reason. He added that he had been summoned to the prosecutor’s office 12 days after his wife’s arrest, again to present some explanations. “This time, I am summoned as a suspect,” he said, adding, “there was no case last time and the issued me some warnings. They implicitly said they did not want me to give any interviews. I am not sure if this time it is the same issue or some other new issue that I am being summoned for.”
Change for Equality website announced two days ago that a bail of 50 million Tomans (about $50,000 US Dollars) had been posted for his release and that his sister’s guarantee had not been accepted by the authorities for his release.
Reihaneh Tabatabai, journalist for Sharq newspaper was released on a 60 million Tomans bail (about 60,000 US Dollars). She had been arrested about a month and a half ago.
Emrouz website reported the release of Mohammad Hossein Mozafari, a student activist. He had been arrested on January 2, who was detained when he responded to his summons by the ministry of intelligence.
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