Six Iranian labor activists, journalists and civil rights activists have been released from prison after settling large bail amounts.
The six were released from Evin and Gharchak prisons on Saturday, October 26 and have been named as:
- Marzieh Amiri, a journalist with the reformist newspaper Shargh,
- Sanaz Allahyari, a journalist with the pro-labor online journal Gam,
- Amir Amirgholi, labor and civil rights activist,
- Amir Hossein Mohammadi-Fard, labor rights activist,
- Atefeh Rangriz, labor rights activist, and
- Sepideh Gholian, labor rights activist.
Sepideh Gholian, who has been a prominent figure in the labor rights movement and been outspoken about workers’ rights, including while she has been behind bars, had gone on a hunger strike a few days before their release, along with Atefeh Rangriz. Iran’s Revolutionary Court had recently handed down long prison sentences to Gholian and Rangriz, along with four other prisoners of conscience, but the appeals court ruled that they should be released.
The Revolutionary Courts of Appeals had upheld long prison sentences without any changes in recent months, including a sentence of 23 years and nine months for writer and satirist Keyomars Marzban, who, according to the Islamic Penal Code, must serve at least 11 years of his sentence.
In September, there were widespread protests against heavy sentences handed down to workers from the Haft-Tappeh Sugar Factory and their supporters, who had staged rallies to demand their rights. On September 21, Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeesi ordered the court of appeals to take up the case and reduce the sentences. For the moment, however, none of the sentences have been changed.
Sepideh Gholian, a veterinary student at Ahvaz University in the province of Khuzestan, was released on bail on the evening of October 26. At first it was reported that her bail had been set at 1.5 billion tomans (US$135,000) but her lawyer Jamaleddin Heydari told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) that bail had been set at 500 million tomans, not 1.5 billion (close to $45,000).
Gholian had gone on a dry hunger strike from October 20 until October 25 to protest against the harassment of her family and the inhuman conditions at Gharchak, a women’s prison. On October 25 she ended her hunger strike after the authorities promised they would take action to address her demands. A day later she was released on bail.
On October 22, Gholian released an audio file describing the pressure that she and her family had been put under [Persian link]. “My sister and brother are under pressure because they are guilty of being my sister and brother,” she said in the recording, during which she could be heard crying. “I have stopped eating and drinking water. They do not stop tormenting me and my family. I am tired. How much can I take? I want a delegation from the judiciary to come and investigate the conditions in Gharchak Prison.”
Gholian, 24, was first arrested on November 18, 2018 for participating in protests organized by Haft-Tappeh Sugar Factory workers, many of whom were her relatives and neighbors. She was released on bail exactly a month later on December 18.
In January 2019, after labor activist Esmail Bakhshi publicly announced that he had been tortured so that he would confess to crimes he had not committed, Sepideh Gholian went on to Twitter to confirm Bakhshi’s claims and to reveal that authorities had tortured her to extract confessions from her. Afterward, on January 20, 2019, she was again arrested at her parents’ home. During the raids on their home, intelligence ministry agents physically assaulted her mother and brother, Mehdi Gholian, who they also arrested after he tried to defend his sister. Gholian’s mother and brother filed a complaint against the agents, but as of yet, their complaint has been ignored.
On September 7, 2019, Judge Mohammad Moghiseh from Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, who oversaw the case of all defendants in the Haft-Tappeh Factory workers case, sentenced Gholian to a total of 18 years in prison for “gathering and conspiracy to act against national security,” “membership to the Gam Group,” a pro-labor online publication, “propaganda against the regime” and “disseminating lies.”
Gholian is now waiting for the final verdict from the Revolutionary Court of Appeals.
Three Arrested Journalists
While Marzieh Amiri, a journalist who works for the newspaper Shargh, was incarcerated, her sister Samira Amiri was the only member of her family to go public about the conditions of the prison in which she was being held and about her case. “Marzieh is to be released on bail in an hour,” she tweeted a short while before her release, “but the bail is the astronomical amount of one billion tomans [close to $90,000]. All these six months [that she was in prison] it was all injustice and cruelty. But one cannot help quietly singing: ‘o, happy freedom…’”
Marzieh Amiri was arrested during the protests to mark International Workers’ Day on May 1, 2019. Authorities disregarded protests from Shargh newspaper against the fact that Amiri was held in solitary confinement for months and insisting that she had only been at the demonstrations to report on them. Judge Mohammad Moghiseh from Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Amiri to 10 years and six months in prison and 184 lashes.
Amiri suffers from epilepsy and her health deteriorated due to the stressful prison environment. Nevertheless, her lawyer’s repeated requests for her to be released from detention were not granted.
But she has now been released, pending the verdict by the Revolutionary Court of Appeals.
After Amiri’s release, news emerged that three journalists working with the pro-labor online publication Gam — wife and husband Sanaz Allahyari and Amir Hossein Mohammadi-Fard and Amir Amirgholi — have been also released on bail. Gam, a political and cultural publication, often published pieces on labor rights and protests and some of its editors and writers had participated in protest rallies staged by the workers of Haft-Tappeh Sugar Factory.
Sanaz Allahyari and her husband Amir Hossein Mohammadi-Fard, Gam’s editor in chief, were arrested at their home on January 9, 2019 and sent to Evin Prison. In July 2019, the couple went on hunger strike to protest against the decision not to release them — despite the fact that bail had been set but their protests and their hunger strike were ignored.
Now the couple have been released from Evin Prison on a bail of 850 million tomans (over $76,000) each.
Amir Amirgholi, another writer for Gam, was also arrested on January 9, 2019, He was first detained at Ahvaz Prison and then transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran. He was released on October 26 on a bail of 1.5 billion tomans ($135,000).
In September, all three were sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of “gathering and conspiracy to act against national security,” “membership to the Gam group,” “propaganda against the regime” and “disseminating lies.” Now the three must wait for a court of appeals verdict.
Atefeh Rangriz, a civil and women’s rights activists, was also arrested on May Day 2019 at a protest rally outside the Iranian parliament. She has now been released on a bail of one billion tomans ($90,000), pending the appeals court verdict.
Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Rangriz to 11 years and six months in prison and 74 lashes on charges of “gathering and collusion against national security” and “disrupting public order.”
Rangriz had been scheduled to be released earlier on a bail of 70 million tomans ($6,300), but on the first day of her trial on August 5 and for no apparent reason Judge Moghiseh increased the bail to two billion tomans ($180,000), which her family could not afford. An informed source told IranWire that, after a matter of a few weeks, the family managed to post the required collateral for the bail but Judge Moghiseh still refused to release her, again for unknown reasons.
On October 16, Atefeh Rangriz went on a hunger strike to protest against the fact that she had not been released on bail. “I am turning my body into a weapon against injustice done to us, against the five times [that I have been] illegally denied bail…and against my unlawful detention in Gharchak Prison,” she wrote from prison.
Rangriz is currently waiting for the court of appeals' verdict.
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