Iranian authorities should immediately release prominent human rights defender Emadeddin Baghi and drop the politically motivated charges against him, Human Rights Watch said today.
On October 14, Baghi responded to a summons to appear before an interrogator at Branch 1 of the Security Unit of the General and Revolutionary Public Prosecutor’s Office. The court charged him with “propaganda against the system” and “publishing secret government documents” for his activities as president of the Society for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, a nongovernmental organization that he founded in 2003.
“The Iranian government should applaud Baghi for his efforts on behalf of prisoners’ rights, not arrest him,” said Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Human Rights Watch.
After Baghi’s arrest, court officials set a bail of 500 million rials (approximately US$50,000). While Baghi’s family was in the process of posting bail, Evin prison authorities arrived at the courthouse and announced that Baghi had to serve a 2003 suspended sentence. The court authorities revoked the bail, and prison officials immediately transferred Baghi back into detention.
In 2003, Judge Babayee of Branch 6 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Baghi to a one-year suspended term for “endangering national security” and “printing lies” in his book, The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran.
In 2000, a Revolutionary Court sentenced Baghi to a three-year prison term on charges of “endangering national security” for his writings about the serial murder of dissident intellectuals in Iran in the late 1990s. He served two years of that sentence, and one year was suspended.
Baghi’s family and lawyers report that since his release in 2003, the authorities have summoned Baghi to court 23 times.
In July, Branch 6 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Baghi, as well as his wife and daughter, to suspended three-year sentences for their work documenting and publicizing human rights violations in Iran’s court systems and prisons.
Emadeddin Baghi also founded the Society of Right to Life Guardians in 2005, an organization that aims to abolish the death penalty in Iran. His two organizations produce reports on the situation of Iranian prisoners and gather data about death penalty cases in Iran.