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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Iran's Response to the Internet

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Review of Mojtaba Saminejad’s Case by his Attorney, Mohammad Seifzadeh (Source: Roozonline)

Mr. Mojtaba Saminejad, blogger and student, was arrested in his house on October 31, 2004 by four officers of Tehran’s Public Prosecutor’s Office. His computer case and several of his books and writings were seized and transferred to prison. He spent 88 days in solitary confinement, during which time he was also interrogated. According to a statement he provided in the provincial criminal court, he was tortured and suffered greatly until he was finally released on January 27, 2005 after posting 50 million toman in bail. He was told that he would again be arrested if visited the homes of Mrs. Ebadi or Seifzadeh!

Despite this, he came to my office immediately after his release (with a letter addressed to the Human Rights Defenders) and requested that I represent him. He was telephonically summoned on February 1, 2005 and charged with the following:

1- Insulting Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader (Article 514);
2- Attempts against national security by way of propaganda against the regime (in the form of spreading rumors and publishing lies) (Article 500);
3- Insulting the sanctities of Islam and disrespecting the laws of Islam (Article 513);
4- Publishing lies and disturbing the public mind;
5- Engaging in an illicit relationship and promoting prostitution and corruption (none of these aforementioned charges are related to the legal definitions, especially in light of the fact that the new charges were communicated three months after the arrest – proof that they were fabricated). He was kept in detention after his bail was increased to 150 million, and remains there to this day.

After the disgraceful and illegal activities of officials linked to Tehran’s Public Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Shahroudi created a three-member committee and seized the case files from the prosecutor’s office. After this, all the bloggers were released. I took the attorney retainer to the Ershad complex next to the Second Branch of the Investigator’s Office. He told me to take it to Judge Moqaddas, the person in charge of the complex. I asked him what this had to do with [Moqaddas], and [reminded him that he was the branch investigator and could not legally reject the retention letter. He told me not to argue with him and to go see [Judge Moqaddas]. I didn’t have a choice, so I went to see him. He came out of his office with several people. [When he saw me] he told me I was under arrest. I said according to what law – if I have committed a crime, I will review it. I also told him that he apparently doesn’t recognize Articles 36 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the Islamic Penal Code, which require punishment in accordance with the law. [He said] you can say [whatever you want]. Then he informed me that I was under arrest, and ordered one of the officers to arrest me. I was in detention for a while, after which I was released. We transferred the case file to my colleague, Mr. Fereydoun Shami. The pressure to remove me as the attorney on the case increased, but Mr. Saminejad resisted. I spoke to his family – they weren’t buckling under the pressure. Mojtaba would also call me from prison and insist that I continue to represent him.

In an effort to put more pressure and harass my client, they fabricated the following charges:

1- Apostasy: Due to the lack of jurisdiction, the case was sent to Branch 78 of the provincial criminal court. The Chief Judge of the branch, who was a learned, humane and enlightened cleric rejected the case and noted that in the first instance, there is no crime of apostasy pursuant to [Article 36 of the] Constitution and the Islamic Penal Code, which provides the legal definition for crimes and punishment. He then indicated that if [the Prosecutor’s Office] wishes to investigate the matter they must issue a charge sheet and transfer the case to a competent court. (Judge Moqaddas and his crew didn’t know this basic fact – a fact that even a first-year law student should know. Or perhaps they did know and didn’t care to uphold it, which is even worse.) The case was sent back to the Branch 2 Investigations office. Judge Moqaddas went to work again. Without the presence of the client and his attorneys, he amended the line that previously included the explanation of the charges and added the charge of “insulting the prophet” in parentheses. He then prepared a new indictment and requested punishment for my client in accordance with Article 513 of the Islamic Penal Code. It should be noted that the punishment for apostasy (pursuant to Shari’a law) and insulting the prophet (according to Islamic law), if proven, is death. Docket Number 83.6 was prepared in Branch 78 and scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. on June 21, 2005. We appeared in court on time, but the proceedings were delayed because in death penalty cases five judges must be present [before the court convenes].

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Tagged as:

Free Speech, Right to Protest, Cyber Journalism, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Free Association, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination