Confirmation of Prison Sentence for Bahá'í Youth in Shiraz
|Photo Credit: HRANA|
(October 2, 2014) – Amid harsh reprisals against religious minorities and individuals deviating from the Shi’a orthodoxy espoused by the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) has received reports regarding the case against one Bahá'í former prisoner of conscience. According to a source familiar with the case, the one-year prison sentence of Adnan Rahmatpanah, a Bahá'í residing in Shiraz, has been upheld by the Fars Province Appellate Court. Although this news has not been officially communicated to Rahmatpanah, it is possible that he could be arrested to serve his sentence at any time.
Adnan Rahmatpanah was arrested in December 2012 by Ministry of Intelligence (MOI) agents. The agents did not show their arrest warrant to Rahmatpanah. They took several items from Rahmatpanah’s residence, including books and pictures related to the Bahá'í faith. The agents also took possession of a number of computers belonging to the clients of Rahmatpanah, who runs a computer business from his home along with his brother.
Rahmatpanah spent two months in the No. 100 Detention Facility, known locally as Pelak-e Sad. He was then transferred to Adelabad Prison, where he was held for more than six months. He was released from prison in June 2013 on a bail of 200 million toumans, equaling approximately $57,142 per the exchange rate at the time. Rahmatpanah was interrogated in 18 sessions. According to IHRDC’s source, Rahmatpanah’s interrogators resorted to physical abuse and the threat of flogging to extract a confession from him. Rahmatpanah did not have access to counsel during his detention.
Reports indicate that interrogators focused on e-mails that Rahmatpanah had sent to the BBC and Voice of America regarding the situation of his brother, who had been arrested before him. Rahmatpanah was also asked about his poems, rap music he had composed, and a picture critical of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that had been posted to his Facebook page by another user.
According to this source, Rahmatpanah was also interrogated about his religious activities and his contacts with other Bahá'ís in Shiraz. Converting to Islam was another topic discussed during Rahmatpanah’s interrogation.
The source who spoke with IHRDC indicated that in Adelabad Prison Rahmatpanah was held at a separate ward along with Christian converts and Dervishes. This ward was referred to as ebrat, or “exemplary punishment.” Compared to prisoners at other wards, the prisoners held at this ward, who were imprisoned for their religious beliefs, faced more limitations in their communications with other prisoners as well as with their families.
Rahmatpanah was initially charged with disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic, insulting the President, writing political poems, and composing music considered to be in opposition to the Islamic Republic. Later, the charge of membership in an illegal group aimed at disrupting national security was added to his case. Eventually, however, the charges he faced at his trial were limited to membership in an illegal group aimed at disrupting national security and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic. In his trial at Branch 3 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court on Shiraz, Rahmatpanah was cleared of the former, but he was found guilty of disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and he was sentenced to one year of imprisonment. His sentence was upheld by the provincial appeals court in May 2014.
Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution declares that the “investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.” In addition, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Iran is obligated to respect the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Article 18 of the ICCPR states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” Furthermore, Article 14 of the ICCPR guarantees fair trial rights, including the right to have access to counsel. Although Rahmatpanah was represented by counsel at his trial, he did not have access to an attorney during interrogations or otherwise while in detention at the No. 100 Detention Facility and Adelabad Prison.