Organizing a memorial service at a grave site usually doesn’t get people in trouble. Unless you live in Iran.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced three prominent authors — Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan-Mahabadi and Keyvan Bazhan — each to six years in prison.
The writers’ crime? They published statements opposing state censorship of art and literature in an Iranian Writers Association (IWA) newsletter and organized a memorial service at the grave site of prominent IWA members Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Mokhtari, a poet, and Pouyandeh, a writer, were among a “string of disappearances and suspicious deaths” among intellectuals in 1998, according to a 2000 United Nations human rights report on Iran.
Using kangaroo courts to put writers behind bars for peacefully expressing themselves is a mockery of justice https://t.co/bPxMDT0Jnl. #Iran #FreeSpeech
— Hadi Ghaemi (@hadighaemi) May 18, 2019
Tweeting also has landed writers and lawyers in jail.
Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, the same judge who sentenced the three authors, also handed down a two-year sentence to journalist Masoud Kazemi in May for tweeting about alleged government corruption.
During the trial Judge Moghiseh told Kazemi, “You people have no right to breath; your hands should be crushed; you should be blown up with gunpowder poured into your mouth; your pens should be broken.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Court recently sentenced Amirsalar Davoudi to 30 years in prison and 111 lashes for highlighting human rights abuses in Iran in his social media posts. Charged with “propaganda against the state” and “insulting officials,” Davoudi joined two other defense lawyers sent to prison in less than a year, reports the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Nasrin Sotoudeh received a 148-lashes-and-38-years prison sentence in March for peacefully defending her clients. Defense attorney Mohammad Najafi, now in jail, faces a 19-year sentence, reports the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
Preventing lawyers from doing their jobs “leaves activists, journalists, dissidents and other critics of the state defenseless in a repressive system,” said Hadi Ghaemi, director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
Little is off limits for Iran’s regime. Earlier this year, Iranian authorities arrested a man for proposing marriage to his girlfriend in public and canceled a band’s performance because the music was too “happy.”