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Society & Culture

Isa Saharkhiz, Crime: Journalism

August 5, 2014
5 min read
Isa Saharkhiz, Crime: Journalism

Interview with Journalist and Political Activist Isa Saharkhiz, Arrested in 2009 Following the Disputed Presidential Election. His Crime? Propaganda Against the Regime.

Name: Isa Saharkhiz

Born: 1954, Abadan, Iran

Career: Reporter and UN Bureau Chief of Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Director-General of Domestic Press Department at Iran’s Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, Managing Editor of Aftab and Akhbar-e Eghtesad (Economic News), CEO of Ghalam (Pen) Publishers and a co-founder of the Society for the Defense of Press Freedom.

Charges: Insulting the Supreme Leader and propaganda against the regime.

Journalist and political activist Isa Saharkhiz was arrested, beaten and imprisoned in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election. Despite facing ongoing pressure, he spoke to IranWire about his arrest and conditions in Evin Prison, where he was held until October 2013.

There is evidence that my name was on a list of people whose arrests were planned before the fraudulent election in 2009 got underway. There was a vast operation to arrest us, which started shortly after the polls closed at 11 pm on Monday June 12.

My own arrest was delayed due to my many trips and my frequent absences from my home and office. I was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry by phone but I was absent at the time and could not report to them as requested. A few hours after Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech at Friday Prayers on June 19, there was a lot of focus on the interviews I’d done with foreign Persian-language TV and radio networks and their correspondents in Iran. My arrest was a priority, so much so that Saeed Mortazavi, Prosecutor General of Tehran at the time, came to arrest me personally.

The police tried to lure me to the prosecutor’s office so they could arrest me there but it didn’t work. Next, they raided my home and my office close to Vanak Square on Sunday June 21 and Monday June 22. They confiscated some of my personal items and papers.

It took them three weeks. I was arrested on the morning of Friday July 3 in a village near the town of Royan. Intelligence Ministry agents had a warrant issued by the Mazandaran province attorney general. During the arrest, the eight officers beat me repeatedly. My ribs were broken, my left shoulder’s tendon was damaged and my body, especially my sides and my wrists, were covered with red, purple and black spots.

I was kept in Cell Block 209 at Evin Prison until a few days before the Iranian new year on March 21, 2010. I was not tortured but I was kept in solitary confinement, from three to four months in cells 31, 51, 42, and so on, to two weeks in cell 75, and eventually a month and a half in cell 127.

I was seriously sick and was prone to fainting so often they assigned a cellmate to me so he would report to them if I fainted and they could take me to the prison’s clinic. Of course, most of the time my cellmates were not political prisoners. They were in for drug smuggling or were accused of being part of a pyramid scheme called Gold Quest.

After five months in solitary confinement, I was moved to a four-prisoner cell. One of my cellmates was a Kuwaiti man affiliated with al-Qaeda. Only when the prison was overcrowded would they would put me next to ordinary prisoners.

After an incident on February 6, 2010, I was given additional harsh punishment.  On a cold night— it was -6 degrees Celsius—I was taken to the rooftop of Cell Block 209 without any warm clothes, shoes or socks. This punishment led to serious medical problems for me, including liver and lung trouble, which I still suffer from.

Because I was injured during my arrest, from the moment I arrived at Evin Prison, I requested to be sent to forensics so that I could provide evidence of torture as part of my complaints against the Supreme Leader, the president and the intelligence minister. I told interrogators that this request was a condition for answering interrogators’ questions. As a result, my interrogations consisted of a few short sessions. They kept me in solitary confinement and I was not sent to court for about two years.

Because I was arrested in northern Iran, they sent me to the Noor county court in Mazandaran. The judge did not know anything about my case so he set a bail of 20 million tomans (about $7,600). During my detention I had not been given any furloughs so there was no reason to increase the bail until I was released.

After serving my three-year sentence—two years for insulting the Supreme Leader and one year for propaganda against the regime—I remained in jail. Instead of releasing me, prosecutors reopened 10-year-old cases against the newspaper Akhbar-e Eghtesad and the magazine Aftab, for which I worked. The cases were supposed to have expired by then, but a new two-year sentence was issued. The defense attorney objected that the two similar charges—I was charged with propaganda against the regime again—do not merit two sentences. The sentence was reduced to a year and a half, but the implementation of the sentence was delayed for two months until October 6, 2013. In effect, I was released from the prison’s infirmary after a delay of three and a half months, taking into account the furloughs to which I was entitled.


This is part of IranWire’s series Crime: Journalism, a portfolio on the legal and political persecution of Iranian journalists and bloggers, published in both Persian and English.

Please contact [email protected] with comments, updates or further information about cases. 


Read other cases in the series:

Jila Baniyaghoob

Ali Ashraf-Fathi 

Mojtaba Pourmohsen

Mahsa Jozeini

Saba Azarpeik


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