Iranian authorities have released Hamid Babaei, a political prisoner held behind bars for six years.
Hamid Babaei, a PhD finance student at the University of Liege in Belgium and a member of the university’s research team, returned to Iran in the summer of 2013. Just 17 days after he arrived, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence asked him to spy for Iran. When he refused, they arrested him.
“Hamid had no illusions about himself,” a relative of Babaei told IranWire. “He was never into politics and political activities but he had principles that he would not violate under any conditions.” The relative said he was sent to prison “for staying true to those principles.” Alain Müller, his professor at the University of Liege, agreed. “I can say with confidence that Hamid was not a political activist,” he said. “Of course, he had his views about what happens in Iran but I never saw him taking any political action.”
In July 2013, Babaei was summoned to an intelligence ministry office in Tehran’s Abuzar Street. He was asked to cooperate with the ministry and spy on Iranian students in Belgium, but he refused. Then, a few days later, as he was about to board a plane to return to Belgium, he was told that he had been banned from leaving Iran. He was again summoned by the intelligence ministry and the offer of spying was repeated — as was his refusal to do so. He was arrested immediately, transferred to Ward 204 of Evin Prison and spent 20 days in solitary confinement.
10 Years for Not Spying
On December 21, 2013, in a trial that lasted less than 10 minutes, Judge Abolghasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to six years in prison and to four years’ suspended imprisonment on the charge of “cooperation with a hostile government.” According to Babaei’s wife Kobra Parsajou, he was denied the right to have his own lawyer and was not informed that the court had chosen a lawyer for him without consulting him. Throughout the short trial, the lawyer was silent and Babaei was not allowed to speak in his own defense.
According to one of his relatives, it was later revealed that Hamid Babaei had been sentenced to prison not for cooperating with a hostile government but for not cooperating with the intelligence ministry by agreeing to spy on Iranian students in Belgium. “Hamid’s arrest put the whole family in shock,” the relative said. “We could not find any justification for it. We could not find any justification in his area of work, in his field of studies, in the country where he lived or in his past and his relationships.”
The actual reason began to emerge when the intelligence ministry summoned his wife several times, and eventually indicted her. Parsajou was later put on trial, sentenced to six months of suspended imprisonment and was banned from leaving the country. According to the relative, she was told to keep silent about her husband. “Otherwise, she would face new charges and her suspended prison sentence would be carried out,” the relative said.
Hamid Babaei was released from prison after six years on August 7, 2019.
This is an updated and edited version of an article published in May 2019