After years of exile, journalist Sarajedin Mirdamadi returned to Iran in 2013, hoping the election of President Hassan Rouhani would be the start of significant change in the country. But on arrival, he was interrogated and told he could not leave the country. On July 27, 2014, he was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from journalism for five years.
Name: Sarajedin Mirdamadi
Born: March 28, 1973
Career: Worked with Jahan-e Eslam, Tous, Hayat-e Now and Resa TV; was a member of the reformist student organization Office for Strengthening Unity; was Deputy Director of Elections at the Iranian Ministry of Interior.
Charges: Propaganda against the regime; conspiracy against national security; giving interviews to “hostile” foreign media; opposition to “Absolute Guardianship of the Jurist” as the founding principle of the Islamic Republic; promoting the elimination of this principle by revising the constitution and opposing mandatory hejab.
After living in exile in Paris for 13 years, journalist Sarajedin Mirdamadi returned to Iran when Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013. “It is the natural right of any Iranian to visit his own country,” he told a group of Iranians in New York. Upon his arrival, his passport and that of his wife were confiscated at the airport.
Mirdamadi says he was interrogated at the police passport office for five hours. On September 15, 2013, he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office at Evin Prison. In all, he was interrogated by the police and Intelligence Ministry agents for close to 200 hours.
The prosecutor’s office opened a case against him, banning him and his wife from leaving the country. As Mirdamadi later told the media, the charges against him— most of which related to interviews he gave and writing he did while living in France—were initially instigated by the Intelligence Ministry under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His wife’s passport was later returned to her.
Mirdamadi’s case was sent from Evin to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court and on, January 8, 2014, his trial on charges of propaganda against the regime began. However, the presiding authority over the case, Judge Salavati, concluded that the case was incomplete and sent it back to the prosecution. On May 10, 2014 he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office at Evin and arrested.
When the trial returned to court, Judge Salavati found Mirdamadi guilty of propaganda against the regime and conspiracy against national security. On July 27, he was sentenced to six years in prison, banned from journalism for five years and told he was forbidden to leave the country until two years after his release.
Mirdamadi is the son of Hossein Mirdamadi, a religious scholar and uncle of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Hossein Mirdamadi was imprisoned by the Shah’s regime during events that led up to the 1979 revolution. When Khamenei became the Supreme Leader, Hossein Mirdamadi cut off relations with the ayatollah.
As a teenager, Mirdamadi was injured while fighting in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). After completing a degree in Islamic jurisprudence and Sharia law, he began his career as a journalist with the newspaper Jahan-e Eslam (the World of Islam). In 2001, he went to France to continue his education, and completed a post-graduate degree in communications.
Mirdamadi was one of several Iranians in exile who appeared in the documentary “Ayatollah’s Seal”, a profile of Ayatollah Khamenei. The documentary, directed by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, was produced by BBC Persian TV and broadcast in 2011. When it was first broadcast, Iranian authorities jammed the satellite signal of BBC Persian. Six documentary filmmakers were arrested and charged with espionage for helping with the BBC film despite the director’s insistence that “they had nothing to do with it.”
“I told him not to come back to Iran,” his father told the media. “But Saraj said that he had done nothing illegal and loved the revolution and his country. Some religious leaders have expressed surprise at how Saraj has been treated. He has done nothing to violate the constitution.” He emphasized that he would not ask his nephew, Ayatollah Khamenei, to pardon his son.
According to Mirdamadi’s brother, Judge Salavati told the court that he planned to “do something so they will have no desire to ever return.” Mirdamadi told one of his interrogators that “Iran is my country and I cannot imagine not returning. We have fought for this country and we try to make it better. I have not committed an illegal act and my reformist activities are public and transparent.”
He is now imprisoned at Cell Block 2A of Evin, which is under the direct supervision of the Revolutionary Guards. Information about prison conditions in Cell Block 2A is unreliable and sparse.