4th May 2011
A friend and other sources close to Ashkan Zahabian, a banned student and human rights activist who was arrested after appearing at the Intelligence Office of Sari on 3 May 2011, explained to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran the extent to which Zahabian’s family was harassed and targeted by security forces within the past year. The sources described how mistreatment of the family, threats to confiscate Zahabian’s bail for his temporary release, and finally death threats against Zahabian, created serious health issues for his parents. Zahabian’s mother was transferred to a hospital and his father’s heart condition worsened.
Pressure placed on the families of human rights activists by security forces is not uncommon and is used in order to arrest individuals. However, the extent of the pressure put on Zahabian and the repeated threats to his family leave no doubt that security forces used systematic psychological pressure on his family to arrest him.
According to sources, Zahabian’s parents were even put under house arrest for several hours at times. “Since 7 December 2010, intelligence forces continually visited Ashkan’s home. In March, they went to their home with an arrest warrant and said that they have a mobile warrant and they can arrest him wherever they spot him. He had a six-month prison sentence. Ashkan did not stay at his home during this time. During one of the visits to his home, 12 security personnel, including the Head of the Babol Intelligence Office, showed up inside house,” a source said.
“The forces confiscated his personal belongings, computer, and books. They detained his parents inside the house for several hours and told them that they were not allowed to leave the house until Ashkan returned. They then threatened that they would obtain ‘shoot-to-kill’ orders for him and would take him to a location where nobody could reach him, etc. Due to these comings and goings, Ashkan’s mother’s health deteriorated to the point of being transferred to the hospital. His father’s heart condition worsened, too,” a source added.
On 3 April 2011, intelligence forces went to Zahabian’s home and threatened to confiscate the home, the deed to which had been posted for his release from prison. The intelligence forces said that they would auction the house.
In the case of his 16 June 2009 arrest, Zahabian was sentenced to six months in prison on charges of “disrupting order,” “inciting people to demonstrate,” and “organizing the protest inside Mazandaran University.” He was arrested for the second time on 5 November 2009 on charges of “acting against national security through forming the Islamic Associations organization in Northern Iran.” According to a source, if Zahabian was summoned to commence his prison term, he shouldn’t have been transferred to the Intelligence Office but to prison.
Ashkan Zahabian was a student campaigner at the campaign headquarters of Mehdi Karroubi in the city of Babol. During post-election arrests, Zahabian was severely beaten by security forces and in one instance was unconscious for three days. He was imprisoned for a total of 8 weeks.
In 2008, Ashkan Zahabian was suspended for one academic term because of his student activism. Only four days after the disputed election of 2009, he was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence. Plainclothes forces known as Ansar-e Hezbollah severely beat him during the arrest. During Student’s Day protests on 4 November 2009, he was arrested for the second time. A Revolutionary Court in Babol sentenced him to six months in prison in his absence. In February 2009, while still suspended, he was banned from continuing his education based on an Intelligence Ministry decision, and was expelled from university just one term shy of graduating.