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Arrest and Release of Mohsen Shoja’

(September 18, 2014) -- According to a source close to the case, Mohsen Shoja’, a 31-year old Iranian artist, was arrested at 7 pm on September 3, 2014, near the former US embassy compound in Tehran. This source indicated that Shoja’ was picked out of a crowd encircling Mohammad Nourizad.

Shoja’ is a recent acquaintance of Nourizad, a filmmaker and outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic who is currently staging a one-man protest in front of the former US embassy compound, which is currently under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The purpose of his protest is to have the IRGC return filmmaking equipment that has been confiscated from him. Nourizad was first arrested in 2009 on charges of propaganda against the Islamic Republic and insulting public officials when he wrote several open letters to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and criticized the Iranian government’s handling of post-election demonstrations. In 2011 agents from the IRGC Intelligence Division raided Nourizad’s home and took possession of his filmmaking equipment. At the time Nourizad was making a film depicting what had happened to him while in detention.  

Shoja’, who works at a private steel company, also pursues arts and music. IHRDC’s source adds that Shoja’ does not have a history of political activism and that this was his first arrest. The source who spoke with IHRDC stated that Shoja’ and Nourizad have recently discussed working together on arts projects. It appears that the only reason for his arrest is his association with Nourizad. Shoja’ has attended Nourizad’s protest multiple times over the past few weeks, and he has accompanied him as he walks to the metro station.

Shoja’ was reportedly arrested by agents of the IRGC Intelligence Division. He was transferred to Evin Prison after his arrest, where he was kept in the quarantine ward for three days before being transferred to Ward 8, a financial crimes ward. The source stresses that Shoja’ was not transferred to Wards 2A, 209, 240, or 350, which are under the supervision of the security services and which have previously been identified with the detentions of prisoners of conscience, because it is believed that a new policy of detaining such prisoners in other wards of Evin Prison has been initiated. A number of prisoners of conscience have indicated that the practice of transferring them to prison wards that house violent criminals (although that has not been the case here) has a punitive aim.

Shoja’ has been charged with acting against national security, distributing propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and disrupting public order. After eleven days’ detention, Shoja’ was released on a bail of 50 million toumans, or approximately $15,700, on Sunday, September 14. Shoja’ has not been denied access to an attorney.

According to IHRDC’s source, Shoja’ fell ill in prison, and the authorities did not provide him with the medication that he needed.

The arrest of Shoja’ violates Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution, which declares that citizens have the right to participate in demonstrations as long as they are not armed and that the demonstration is not against Islamic teachings. Furthermore, Article 25 of the Iranian Constitution forbids extra-legal searches and monitoring of communications. Given that Shoja’ has not had any political activity prior to his association with Nourizad, his arrest indicates a possible monitoring of his communications and a violation of his privacy rights. In addition, the monitoring and arrest of Shoja’ contravenes the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 22 of the ICCPR guarantees the freedom of association, while Article 17 protects citizens against arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, including their communications.

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Tagged as:

Imprisonment, Evin prison