Human Rights Watch: Iran: Four Journalists Sentenced to Prison, Floggings

Human Rights Watch, February 10 2009:

Authorities arrested Omid Memarian, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, and Javad Gholamtamimi in September and October 2004, and detained them without charge. The four said that they were subjected in detention to physical and psychological abuse, as well as prolonged periods of solitary confinement in a secret detention center without access to counsel or family. Three of the men subsequently described the abuse at a meeting with Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the head of the judiciary. On April 20, 2005, a judiciary spokesman said that an official investigation confirmed that their confessions had been coerced. “The interrogators and prosecutors committed a series of negligent and careless acts in this case that led to the abuse of the detainees’ words and writings in producing confession letters,” the spokesman said.

“These sentences are shocking, given that the head of the judiciary himself admitted the evidence had been obtained by coercion” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. “The judges should be investigating and prosecuting abusers, not their victims.”

Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called on the Tehran Appeals Court to overturn the sentences, and on the government to investigate the torture claims.

The four journalists were released on bail in late 2004. Memarian, Mirebrahimi, and Rafizadeh subsequently left Iran and are living abroad. Gholamtamimi resides in Iran.

Judiciary authorities informed lawyers for the four on February 4 that Branch 1059 of Tehran’s Judiciary Court sentenced them each to prison terms of up to three years and three months, and to be flogged. Memarian was also fined 500,000 tomans (US$520). The known charges against them include “participating in the establishment of illegal organizations,” “membership in illegal organizations,” “propaganda against the state,” “disseminating lies,” and “disturbing public order.” Gholamtamimi was also charged with treason.