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Witness Statement: Arash Sigarchi

34. The interrogator pointed out other arbitrary issues. For example, he raised an issue about an article published in my paper. My general manager had decided to allow a third party, who was very Hezbollahi [conservative], to put together the entire issue every Saturday. The Saturday before the Leader came to Rasht, the group placed an article on the front page titled “Countdown [shumarish-i ma’kus] to Leader’s Arrival.” The interrogator said the second issue of insulting the Supreme Leader was using, as he put it “the accursed term countdown [shumarish-i ma’kus],” rather than “reverse counting [shumarish-i varunih].” In fact, I had nothing to do with that issue of the paper and had no part in writing the article at all.

35. My other charge was publishing lies. What was publishing lies? The interrogator said, “You wrote lies in the news about Babak Mehdizadeh.” Babak Mehdizadeh was the paper’s political reporter. He was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry and interrogated. I wrote about this in my blog. The interrogator argued that Mehdizadeh had not actually been summoned, and that I was spreading lies. I responded that I had a letter from Babak himself saying that he had been summoned, and that if it was not true then he was the liar. I just reported the news based on his letter. The interrogator also raised the issue of another journalist, Farshad Ghorbanpour, who was the paper’s economic reporter and had been detained. He accused me of lying when I reported that Farshad had been imprisoned. Again, I replied that, as a matter of fact, Farshad had been detained by Sepah for a week. He retorted that Farshad had been “detained” and not “imprisonsed.”

36. He also told me that I insulted Imam Khomeini. Now, what did insulting the Imam mean? The interrogator said that I had written an article suggesting that Khomeini was a dictator. I said that I had never written such a thing, that I was a journalist who knew the boundaries in Iran very well. If I had written such a thing, I would leave myself vulnerable to their attacks.

37. When they confiscated the newspaper’s computers they found a series of photoshopped pictures, such as Khomeini’s head on Jennifer Lopez’s body. The interrogator said that this was insulting to Imam Khomeini. I pointed out to him that they weren’t my pictures. In our newspaper, 12 people had user IDs and could log into any computer. The pictures were not necessarily mine. Furthermore, as the Editor-in-Chief, I was smarter than to save such things on my computer.

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Cyber Journalism, Secret Prisons, Imprisonment, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Travel Restrictions