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Society & Culture

Guilty of Possessing Documentaries and Other Criminal Objects

October 19, 2015
5 min read
Guilty of Possessing Documentaries and Other Criminal Objects

The mother of jailed activist Omid Alishenas has revealed that her son faces charges of possessing documentary films and using a satellite receiver.

Speaking after a protest march on Saturday, October 17, Simin Eyvazzadeh told IranWire that her son had been charged with propaganda against the regime, insulting the supreme leader, organizing illegal gatherings, and conspiracy. This is the first time she has gone in to the specific detail about the charges, and how they came about. 

Eyvazzadeh and other family members of political prisoners marched from Evin Prison to the Parsian Hotel to protest against the illegal treatment of the prisoners, as well as the poor conditions at Evin Prison. A German delegation, which included the German foreign minister, was staying at the hotel. 

Each Saturday, the families gather outside Evin to raise awareness of the cases of civil rights activists and political prisoners. This week, they marched in the rain holding photographs of their loved ones, appealing to German officials, who they hoped might be able to influence the Iranian government. Security forces tried to stop them from entering the hotel, but Simin Eyvazzadeh, the mother of Omid Alishenas, and prominent activist and former president of Tehran University, Mohammad Maleki, managed to get in. “I wanted the German delegation to know about the situation of human rights in this country and to hear our voices,” said Eyvazzadeh. 

“We can’t make our own authorities hear us, but we have written letters to them,” she told IranWire. “We have written numerous letters to Mr Rouhani, who promised he would improve the human rights situation in the country, and also to judicial authorities. But nothing has changed.” 

Security forces arrested Omid Alishenas, 32, at his home in September 2014. In April 2015, Judge Mohammad Moghiseh handed down a 10-year prison sentence to the civil engineer and advocate for the rights of children. 

For possession of “satellite receiver equipment” — the family home has a satellite dish —  Alishenas was sentenced to pay a fine of five million rials [US$156]. He was charged with possession of 700 obscene films, which his mother says are all international films. As punishment for this crime, he was ordered to pay a fine of seven million rials [$218]. “They considered Hollywood films to be obscene,” Eyvazzadeh said. “When they came to arrest Omid, they took his computer, laptop, mobile phone and his personal things. Many of the charges against him are the result of this search. For example, he had a copy of the film To Light a Candle in his computer.” She said that when Alishenas was being charged, authorities noted the fact that To Light a Candle defends the Bahai’s in Iran and is against the ban on their right to study at universities. “They gave possession of this film as an example of how he was guilty of propaganda against the regime,” Eyvazzadeh said. 

Charges of organizing and attending illegal gatherings were handed down in connection with a protest against the Kobane massacre outside a UN office in Tehran, and attending memorials for people killed in the unrest that followed the presidential election in June 2009, for political prisoners executed in 1988, and for Mostafa Karimbeigi, a protester killed during a December 27, 2009 protest. Activists and lawyers Nargess Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotudeh both spoke at the memorial for Karimbeigi.

Alishenas’ family and his lawyer have appealed against his conviction but, despite the fact that five months have passed since the first verdict was issued, no appeal court has investigated the case. Eyvazzadeh said the branch of the court had been selected — Branch 36 presided over by Judge Zargar — but no details about the date or time of the trial have been made available. 

Alishenas has been held in temporary detention ever since he was arrested. “He has been in jail for more than a year,” his mother said. “There has been no final verdict. The interrogation has finished and he must be released on bail, but he is illegally being kept in prison.” The family have repeatedly applied for bail, which has repeatedly been denied. Each time, authorities provide a different reason for rejecting the request. 

Omid Alishenas is currently being held in Section Eight of Evin Prison, known to be one of the worst parts of the complex. “Keeping him in Section Eight is another illegal measure taken against my son,” Eyvazzadeh told IranWire. Prisoners held on security-related charges are put in the same cell as inmates accused of very different crimes, including violent crimes. Many inmates held in Section Eight cells suffer from poor health.

Eyvazzadeh said she has not seen her son for six months. “Authorities tell Omid to wear a prison uniform when he goes to the visitor meeting area. According to prison regulations, political prisoners cannot be forced to wear uniforms, so he refuses.” 

“My son served the children,” said Simin Eyvazzadeh, referring to Alishenas’ commitment to children all over the world, from Gaza to Kobane. “He should not have been imprisoned. He struggled for a better life for the people. Why have these efforts landed him in prison?” 

Alishenas’ family have been warned not to talk to the media about his case. But Eyvazzadeh has said remaining silent has not helped to improve the situation for her son. So over the last few months she has spoken out against prison conditions, and about the rights of prisoners, particularly the rights of those held on security-related charges, like her son. 


Related articles:

“Stay away from the media, or we will arrest your whole family”


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