Posts Tagged ‘RFE/RL’

2018 will go down in history as a year of shame for Iran

January 24, 2019

On 23 January 2019 RFE/RL reported that Iranian human rights defender Reza Khandan got a six-tear prison sentence. The next day Amnesty International issued a damning overview of the situation of human rights defenders in that country: Iran arrested more than 7,000 people in a sweeping crackdown against protesters and dissidents in the past year. See more below:

Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013
Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013

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Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi goes public with his torture claim and hits a nerve even inside Iran

January 11, 2019

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.
Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi has been out of jail for a month, but says he still bears the physical and psychological scars from being tortured “to the verge of death” during his 25-day jail stay in Khuzestan Province. Bakhshi was arrested on November 20 for his role in weeks-long protests over unpaid salaries at a local sugar factory. He was charged with disruption of public order and collusion against national security and spent weeks in jail before his release on bail on December 12. After detailing his sufferings on Instagram (public letter), Bakhshi challenged Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi, a mid-ranking cleric, to a live TV debate concerning the alleged torture of detainees. “As a cleric, and from the moral and human rights point of view, tell us what is the sentence for those who torture prisoners? Is torturing prisoners permissible? If it is, to what extent? Does the ministry you run have the right to secretly monitor private telephone conversations?

Now Bakhshi’s claims have shined a light into the greater issue of prisoner mistreatment and torture, which rights group say is widespread, and have prompted parliament to launch an investigation. Iranian media reported that a parliament committee has been authorized to investigate Bakhshi’s claims after lawmakers requested a probe. Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of parliament, wrote a column in the reformist Etemad daily on January 6 in which he said Bakhshi’s claims were a “source of shame” and demanded answers from the Intelligence Ministry (“The letter …. should be a wake-up call for all those with a conscience and defenders of citizens’ rights who must follow up this matter until it reaches a clear conclusion.” ).

Since the publication of the labor activist’s letter, Bakhshi’s lawyer has indicated that her client has come under intense pressure to retract his statements about being tortured.

On January 6, 2019, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei claimed the authorities would investigate if Bakhshi lodged a formal complaint.

“After mentioning torture Esmail Bakhshi has come under intense pressure aimed at forcing my client to deny what happened,” Zilabi said on January 7.

The suggestion that the Intelligence Ministry could be sued has brought reactions from former political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have suffered torture at the hands of the state. They noted that it is practically impossible to bring torturers to justice and in most cases it was the victims who received punishments for publicizing the torture.

 

After I was released [from more than a month in detention in early December 2004] I gave interviews and spoke to judicial authorities about being tortured,Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian reporter living in exile in the US, tweeted on January 6.  “Then I was summoned by [the Tehran Prosecutor at the time, Saeed] Mortazavi and in the presence of my lawyer he told me I had to file a lawsuit, which I did. He said now that the suit had been filed I had to prove my case or else he would lock me up for a long period. So I became a defendant in my own suit.”

Taghi Rahmani, a reporter and political activist who lives in Paris after serving 15 years in Iran’s prisons, tweeted: “In 1991 I was beaten during interrogation. In fact Judge [first name unknown] Haddad had entered the room and witnessed most of the beating. When my attorney [Abdolfattah] Soltani brought up the beatings in court, Judge Haddad sued Soltani and he was sentenced to four months in prison…

Attorney Ali Mojtahedzade suggested that to assure the public that torturers could be sued and brought to justice, the judiciary should first conclude the prosecution of those responsible for previous atrocities, such as the deaths of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and blogger Sattar Beheshti during detention.

..Another former political prisoner, Hossein Ronaghi commented: “Sattar Beheshti had said that his interrogator had hung him on the ceiling and beat him. He was terrified about being tortured again”.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/23/observatory-expresses-grave-concern-over-health-of-iranian-hrd-hossein-ronaghi-maleki/]

[The February 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General on Iran stated: “The Secretary-General remains concerned about continuing reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment in the Islamic Republic of Iran persists. Such reports point to a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions….” The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran also expressed concern in his September 2018 report.]

Kazakh human rights defender Vadim Kuramshin will probably be granted early release

August 2, 2018

 

Vadim Kuramshin in 2012

Radio Free Europe on 1 August 2018 carried the good news that the prominent Kazakh Rights Defender will new granted parole after 6 years In prison. A lawyer for Vadim Kuramshin, Muratbek Irge, told RFE/RL that a court in the northeastern city of Oskemen agreed on August 1 to parole Kuramshin. He will be released in 15 days if the ruling is not appealed and overturned, Irge said. Kuramshin has become known for his efforts to raise awareness of violations of inmates’ rights in Kazakh penitentiaries, including the one where he served his term. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2012 on an extortion conviction. He denies wrongdoing. His supporters say were politically motivated.

In December 2013, while behind bars, Kuramshin was awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux international human rights prize.[see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ludovic-trarieux-international-human-rights-prize]

 

Russian protest artist Pavlensky stripped of Havel Prize over support for violent ‘Partisans’

July 10, 2016

On 5 May 2016 I reported on the Havel Prize winners [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/2016-havel-prize-of-the-human-rights-foundation-goes-to-atena-farghadani-petr-pavlensky-and-umida-akhmedova/], including the ‘protest artist’ Pyotr Pavlensky. Now that he has been stripped of this award two months later, this should also be reported. The choice may have seemed a bit shaky from the beginning, but the more important is to recognize the decisive action by the award giver, the Human Rights Foundation.

Pyotr Pavlensky
Pyotr Pavlensky
Pavlensky told RFE/RL on July 8 that HRF President Thor Halvorssen had informed him of the formal decision to revoke his prize in an e-mailed letter. The letter, which has been seen by RFE/RL, states that HRF regrets the decision as “unfortunate and unprecedented” but says the prize’s selection criteria disqualify those who have “advocated the use of violence as a valid method to fight government oppression.” Speaking to RFE/RL on July 8, Halvorssen confirmed that the organization had revoked Pavlensky’s prize but said HRF had nothing to add beyond the text of the letter sent to the artist.
Dissident artist Pyotr Pavlensky talked to RFE/RL [Tom Balmforth] about what prompted him to take up political art, and how he sees his political stunts as a rejection of a pervasive “clerical” ideology. He does not take the cancellation lightly and accused the organizers of the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent of essentially “acknowledging their support for police terror” by withdrawing the award after he pledged to devote the $42,000 in prize money to the legal defense of convicted police killers in Russia’s Far East.

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