An Azerbaijani civil and media activist has been charged with espionage for Iran’s northern neighbor, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and recruiting informers for the intelligence service of that country. At the same time, the defense attorney for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been subjected to severe torture in Tabriz’s central prison and continues to be on the non-visitation list.
Naser Deraz-Shamshir, known as Aidin Moghanli, has been in detention for the last five months while his family members avoid speaking to the media because of pressure from security and intelligence officers. Defense attorney Naghi Mahmoudi who represents many Azeri (Iranian Azerbaijanis) prisoners and detainees told Rooz that Deraz-Shamshir has been charged with espionage for the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Naser Deraz-Shamshir was arrested on July 27, 2011 in the north western city of Ardebil (capital of Ardebil province), was initially kept in Tabriz’s intelligence detention center and is now at the city’s central prison. He has till today not been allowed to meet his family members.
In an exclusive interview with Rooz, Naghi Mahmoudi said, “Mr. Deraz-Shamshir’s case was initially at the general and revolutionary court in the city of Ardebil and he himself was kept at the city’s intelligence center. Then about a month ago, his dossier was sent to Tabriz’s Revolutionary court and he was transferred to the city’s intelligence detention center, where he remains today.”
Mahmoudi said the three charges filed against him are, “Propaganda against the regime, espionage for the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the recruitment of informers for the Azerbaijan Republic intelligence service.”
Asked about the evidence to support these charges, the attorney said, “Mr. Deraz-Shamshir took part in a reporting training course in the city of Baku (in the Republic of Azerbaijan) and then introduced a number of media activists to participate in the same course. This act of referring others to take the journalism course is the basis of the espionage charge and that of recruiting informers.”
“Unfortunately, political and security charges that are raised against individuals in the Islamic republic of Iran lack any real basis. Mr. Deraz-Shamshir’s participation in a purely training course for journalists is the cause of this heavy charge against him. This is a dangerous issue because not only can he get a heavy sentence for it, it can also deter others from participating in other specialized training courses out of fear of arrest and imprisonment,” Mahmoudi continued.
Mahmoudi mentioned his experience with cases involving civil and political activists in the past and said, “With the experience that I have gathered over the years on this issue, I can clearly say that none of the political and security charges against these individuals are based on any legal documents or evidence but simply on speculation, conjecture and exaggerations shaped by the intelligence service, which result in heavy prison sentences.” He added that no date has been announced yet for Mr. Deraz-Shamshir’s trial and that he remains on the non-visit list of prisoners.
Mahmoudi then named two other clients, Mehdi Hamidi Shafagh and Taghi Salahshoor, Iranian Azerbaijani activists who are kept in Tabriz’ central prison and who have been charged with participating in protests over the drying up of Orumieh Lake. They have so far had one trial hearing and await a second one.
Javid Hootan Kian Still on Non-Visit List
This defense attorney named another of his clients, Javid Hootan Kian, the imprisoned defense attorney for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who he said continues to be kept at Tabriz’s central prison and is on the non-visitation list. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is the famed woman who has been sentenced to death by stoning. Mr. Hootan was arrested last year along with Sajad Ghaderzadeh, Sakineh Ashtiani’s son, along with two German reporters in Iran. The German reporters were subsequently released and returned to Germany and Ghaderzadeh was acquitted. Javid Hootan was initially sentenced to 11 years of prison and a 5-year ban on working in the legal field, a ruling that was subsequently reduced to six years. He is serving his sentence in Tabriz’s central prison. Mr. Mahmoudi who represented Hootan told Rooz, “Mr. Hootan was acquitted from charges of ertedad (heresy) and espionage but he was sentenced to one year of prison for engaging in propaganda against the regime plus another five years for misrepresenting himself as being an international attorney, a representative of human rights, etc. He continues to serve his sentence while being denied the right to have a defense attorney in addition to being denied any visitations by his relatives and family members.” He said that he did meet with Hootan last March in the Tabriz prison when he passed his power of attorney documents to me, something that the judge in the case strongly opposed, thus in reality denying Mr. Hootan of legal representation. “His family members are under severe pressure not to talk to the media and he himself is under bad conditions in prison. It is undeserving that human rights activists and media ignore the conditions and fate of this respectable attorney,” Mahmoudi said. He also said that when he saw his client in March, his hands and feet showed cigarette burn signs, adding, “He had been severely tortured and was in no good health at all. His nose and a number of his teeth were broken and his testicles were injured. Unfortunately human rights groups have not paid the attention that this activist is worthy of as he continues to be deprived of his basic and legal rights even as a prisoner.”