In what has been seen as the latest attempt to block the work of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, authorities sealed the offices of a film company on September 23. Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, had an office on the premises.
Security forces informed Khandan, a designer and graphic artist, that his office, which operates independently of the film company but shares the same premises, would be inaccessible because the company had colluded with foreign media and “seditious individuals” had been seen coming and going from the building.
IranWire spoke to Reza Khandan about the incident.
What happened? Why did authorities close and seal the offices of the film company?
I was not in the office on the day they came. We were busy, involved in the case about Ms Sotudeh receiving annoyance calls, which is now closed. Not only was my office sealed off, so was the whole building. One of my friends who has a film company had allowed me to use one of their offices. I was working totally independently and was not involved in any way in the filmmaking business. But now the whole building is sealed off.
What do you think the reason was for them taking such action?
They just uttered several irrelevant accusations against the director of the film company, one of which was that he had links to fetneh [an umbrella term meaning “seditious people” and referring to anybody involved in the 2009 post-election demonstrations]. What they mean by fetneh is people like us. My wife used to come to the office, which the most natural thing. Our family has been friends with the director of the film company for years and this was the reason they gave me an office without me having anything to do with their business.
Did you receive a warning that the building might be sealed off?
They did not give any formal notice, but three days before they sealed the building, the security forces, together with plainclothes agents, raided the building. They had bulk warrants and arrested everyone present, no matter who they were — people outside and inside the office and even a motorcycle delivery person. This type of arrest is illegal. The arrest order should contain the full particulars of the individual to be summoned. They released them on the same evening, but held the director of the film company for several hours. The prosecutor general, an intelligence officer and security forces all interrogated him without any legal procedures in place. At that point, he was told that the building would be sealed, which happened three days later. He had not received any notice or summons; he was only told this verbally. Of course, the agents told the director that one of the reasons they were sealing the building was my presence in the office.
Why do you think they targeted you?
It is not surprising at all. Last year, on the same day, they canceled my wife’s license to practice law. She has not been able to continue her work since she was released from prison. Now her license has also been canceled. This type of measure intends to paralyze people. They want to cut off people’s economic potential so that they cannot get involved in civil and political affairs. The authorities routinely try to cripple their opponents financially.
When they arrested my wife, they also called one of my colleagues and told him to cut off relations with our family. They knew that I had economic connections with him. They want to weaken the family economically.
You mentioned that Ms Sotoudeh’s license had been revoked. This was lifted a few months ago though, so can she now renew it?
The paperwork is not still finished. After the sit-in [to protest against her licence being revoked] finished, she had to have surgery on both legs. Her condition was aggravated by the sit-in. Therefore, she has not been able to pursue the renewal of her license in full. She has to submit her tax return now. One of her colleagues once told her about a letter that says she has been banned from working for 10 years. We do not know if this is an old letter, or if it is a new barrier. She has to follow this up.
What happened with the case about the harrassment calls Ms Sotoudeh was receiving?
The case is now closed. We filed a complaint against the person who was responsible for this annoyance. We located him in one of residential complexes around Tehran. He was not in a good mental state. After conversations we had at the police station, we realized that he is not mentally well. We understood that the issue was totally personal; he had found my wife’s telephone number from one of my wife’s clients, who had been a guest at his house. We had not been the only target of his calls; he used to call national television and the office of the Supreme Leader and the presidential office as well and complain about everything. He signed a form and we canceled our complaint.
What steps will you take next? What will happen about the sealed building?
I have not received any notice or summons. I have begun drafting a letter to send to the prosecutor’s branch in Evin Prison, which ordered the closure and sealing of the building. I will ask them why they have sealed my office.
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