As well as journalists and editors, many prominent reformist activists who published their views in the independent media were caught up in the crackdown on independent publications and charged on account of articles they had published. Meanwhile, the judiciary has also mounted prosecutions against other leading reformists and political activists.
The Berlin Conference Participants
In October 2001 at least twelve reformist activists who had attended the Berlin conference were brought to trial before the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, though the number of named defendants eventually reached seventeen. On January 13, 2001, the court convicted seven of them on vague charges of having "conspired to overthrow the system of the Islamic Republic." The court convicted three other defendants on lesser charges, imposing fines and suspended sentences, and acquitted seven others. Even so, the trial breached recognized international fair trial standards: the authorities held several of the defendants for months without access to legal counsel and the judge, as is common in Revolutionary Court cases, acted also as prosecutor. Further, the trial was conducted behind closed doors.
Investigative journalist Akbar Ganji (see above) received a particularly severe sentence, ten-years of imprisonment to be followed by five years of internal exile in the south of Iran.13 He had previously published articles implicating powerful, high-level officials in the 1998 killings of leading dissident writers and intellectuals, and the assassination attempt on Said Hajjarian (see above). Two translators employed by the German Embassy in Tehran, Saeed Sadr and Khalil Rostamkhani, received ten and nine-year sentences respectively. Khalil Rostamkhani had not actually attended the Berlin conference, though he had helped in its preparation. His wife, Roshanak Darioush, a prominent translator of German literature into Persian, served as a translator at the conference, but she did not return to Iran to face charges. Ganji's sentence was subsequently reduced to six months imprisonment on appeal.
The Revolutionary Court in the Berlin case also sentenced student leader Ali Afshari to five years in prisons, and veteran politician Ezzatollah Sahabi to serve four-and-a-half years. Both of them were already detained for their criticism of government policy by the time the Berlin prosecutions were announced in October. Their families had not been informed of their places of detention Shahla Lahidji and Mehrangiz Kar each received four year prison sentences. Ms. Kar, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, was for a time prevented from leaving the country for medical treatment. Hojatoleslam Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari, remained in prison awaiting sentencing by a Special Court for the Clergy on charges of apostasy. He was originally sentenced to death, but this verdict was quashed by an appeals' court in May 2001. Two other writers, Changiz Pahlevan and Kazem Kardavani, have not returned to Iran from Germany, having been informed that charges have been prepared against them also.
Other Prosecutions of Dissidents
In attempting to weaken President Khatami's bid for a second term of office in the June 2001 elections, conservatives also targeted Deputy Minister of the Interior Mustafa Tajzadeh. Tajzadeh had been responsible for administering the February 2000 parliamentary elections, and was held by many conservatives to be responsible for their loss in those elections. He is also facing legal charges following the ministry's report about serious unrest at a rally in Khorramabad in August 2000, when students gathered to hear speeches by Mohssen Kadivar and Abdol Karim Soroush. The report, for which Tajzadeh was responsible, attributed much of the blame to violent vigilantes who attacked the students. The charges against Tajzadeh appeared designed to remove him from his position and disqualify him from supervising the forthcoming presidential elections. He was forced to resign from his position in April 2001.
On March 26, 2001 member of parliament Fatima Haghighatjoo was detained on charges of inciting public opinion and insulting the judiciary following remarks she made on the floor of the parliament. She was released on bail the next day, but continues to face prosecution. She is the first sitting member of parliament to be prosecuted for statements made under cover of parliamentary privilege.
Suppression of the Religious - Nationalist Alliance
The Freedom Movement, throughout its fifty-year history, has been an advocate of constitutional Islamic rule with respect for democratic principles. Several of its leaders, including former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, served in the first government of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Since then it has attempted to nominate candidates for parliamentary and presidential elections, but its candidates have almost always been ruled inadmissible by the Council of Guardians.
The closure of the Freedom Movement followed the arrest and detention of twenty-one independent political activists associated with the religious nationalist trend at a political meeting in Tehran on March 11. The meeting was held in the home of Mohamed Basteh-Negar, son-in-law of Grand Ayatollah Taleghani, a renowned critic of the Shah and an inspirational figure for supporters of a liberal view of Islamic government in Iran. The Revolutionary Court stated that the activists, who are associated with various movements and parties, were linked to the Freedom Movement.
The adherents of this loose alliance support the reform policies of President Khatami and have criticized efforts to block reform by conservative clerics. They had held weekly meetings since 1984 at which they debated current political events. Since the 1997 election of President Khatami, they had widened participation in this forum and attendance had increased accordingly.
Eleven of those arrested have not been allowed access to legal counsel, doctors or their families. They are being held incommunicado, in violation of Iranian and international law, and their whereabouts remain unknown. Among the eleven who remain in detention are: Dr. Mohammad Maleki, the former chancellor of the University of Tehran, Dr. Habibullah Peiman, Taghi Rahmani, Mohammad Basteh Nagar, Dr. Ali Reza Rajaei, Mahmoud Omrani, Saeid Madani-Farokhi, Mohammad Mohammadi-Ardehali, Dr. Hossein Rafei, Dr. Reza Reiss-Toussi, Dr. Massoud Pedram and Morteza Kazemian. The elderly veteran political activist Ezzatollah Sahabi also remains in detention on unknown charges at an unknown location.
More than forty independent political activists have been rounded up in Tehran and around the country since April 7. Many of them were associated with the Iran Freedom Movement. Among those detained was eighty-year-old Dr. Seyed Ahmad Sadr Haj Seyed Javadi, a founding member of the Freedom Movement and a prominent legal scholar. An extensive legal archive dating back to the pre-Revolutionary period was removed from his house at the time of his arrest.
In the course of the raids, security forces ransacked the offices of the Bazargan Cultural Foundation and the Association of Islamic Engineers. They seized computers and files dating back many years. The Bazargan Foundation and the Association were legally registered under Iranian law. Detentions took place in many cities.15
13 Tehran's Appeals Court reduced the sentence from ten years to six months on May 15, 2001.
14 This committee is also known as an "Article 10 Commission" in reference to Article 10 of the political parties law.
15 The list of detainees from different cities compiled by Human Rights Watch names the following:
· Tehran: Dr. Seyed Ahmad Sadr Hajseyed Javadi, former Minister of Justice and the Interior during the transitional government; Hashem Sabaghian, former Deputy Prime Minister and spokesman for the transitional government; Mohammad Tavasoli, former mayor of Tehran; Dr. Gholam-Abas Tavasoli, former chancellor of Isfahan University; Abolfazl Bazargan engineer and deputy prime Minster in the transitional government; Reza Masmouie, engineer; Mahmoud Naimpour, engineer; Dr. Hossesin Bani-Assadi; Mr. Abouzari, the head of Bazargan Cultural Foundation; Dr. Razmjou; Bagher Valibeik; Vahid Mirzadeh; Mr. Aghaei; Mr. Badeizadehgan, head of the Bazargan Foundation; Dr. Khossro Mansourian;