Monthly Report of Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP)
The systematic violation of human rights of Azerbaijanis within Iran continued throughout March 2010, even though judiciary and other offices were closed because of the Norouz holidays. Azerbaijani activists were arbitrarily detained and sentenced to long-term imprisonments. Azerbaijani political prisoners were under various psychological pressures and were deprived of their fundamental rights. Judiciary and security authorities increased pressure on Azerbaijani magazines, newspapers, and organizations throughout March.
Azerbaijani political prisoners oppressed in prisons
Judiciary authorities are responsible for the prisoners’ physical and psychological problems. Azerbaijani political prisoners in Iran, however, are subjected to various ill-treatments, oppression by prison authorities, and most of them are deprived of their fundamental rights.
Azerbaijani cultural activists Behruz Alizade, Vadud Saadeti, Ali Abbasi and Azerbaijan journalist Rahim Gholami are currently serving prison terms in Ardebil prison. The authorities mistreat and insult them in prison. The authorities also have transferred some of the prisoners who were sentenced to execution to the political prisoners ward to increase fear, intimidation and psychological pressure on political prisoners.
During the live broadcast of a soccer game in prison on March 6, 2010, the transferred prisoners attacked Saadeti, Alizade, Abbasi, and Gholami using weapons. The political prisoners were injured and Saadeti’s nose was broken. They believe that the prisoners attacked them as a request from prison authorities.
The prison warden has denied the demand of political prisoners in separating them from hardened criminals. The political prisoners’ hairs were cut in a sarcastic way and their phone call rights were decreased after their objection.
Saadeti, Alizade, Abbasi, and Gholami objected the physical and psychological oppression with a hunger strike on March, 13, 2010 for four days. They ended the strike temporarily after prison authorities accepted their demands.
The Ministry of Intelligence agents called Saadeti, Alizade, and Gholami to sign a document indicating a repentance of their demands to be released. The political prisoners denied singing the document and demanded their fundamental eights to be protected.
Said Matinpur, an Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activist is still in grave health and does not have access to proper medical care. The repeated requests of Matinpur’s lawyer and family from judiciary authorities on his transfer to a hospital outside of the prison have not been granted. Judiciary authorities issued permission for prisoners to enjoy the Norouz holidays but the requests of political prisoners to use their lawful rights were denied by prison authorities once more.
Azerbaijani activists detained
Mohammad Rahvar, an Azerbaijani activist, was arrested on March 16, 2010 and was sent to prison to serve his eight month jail term.
Azerbaijani journal shut down
The pressure on Azerbaijani journalists has increased in the recent years. Most of the journals and newspapers have been closed down and the journalists have been detained.
Sina, an Azerbaijani Turkish/Persian weekly journal by Yadollah Sharifi’s director–in-chief, was shut down on March 1, 2010 by the Iranian authorities. The journal was published in Hamedan Province and was covering cultural, social and political news and the problems Azerbaijanis face in this province. Reportedly, the journal was closed down because of covering ethnic problems in a released verdict by authorities.
Prior to this event, another Azerbaijani journal in Qom was closed down. The Yarpaq newspaper which is currently shut down was directed by Eyvaz Taha, who was threatened by the authorities several times to end the publishing of Yapraq.
Long-term temporary detention
Shahin Fazli, an Azerbaijani student activist, has been detained for more than two months without yet facing trial. The student activist was arrested on February 1, 2010 at his house. The security forces have taken some of his personal property including his books and notebook.
He was arrested for his membership in groups that are active abroad, propaganda against the regime, violating the public order, and for the provocation of public thought. Fazli has been detained several times and has been released on bail each time when detained.
Azebaijani activists sentenced to prison
Shahnaz Ghoalmi, an Azebaijani blogger and women rights activist, was sentenced to eight years in prison. She was charged for membership in People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), publishing false news, and propaganda against the regime for sending news to Homa news agency.
Gholami was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment for membership in PMOI, and she will be tried for other crimes later in another court.
Iran, USA, and other countries list the PMOI as a terrorist organization. The activist denied all the crimes, including her membership in PMOI. Gholami currently does not live in Iran. She left Tabriz for Turkey to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR.
Hasan Ark and Ebrahim Dashti, who are Azerbaijani political activists, were sentenced to 91 days of imprisonment. The activists were detained for 39 days since September 21, 2009, and were released on bail to be tried later. They were charged with propaganda against the regime based on their interview with GunAz TV- a TV station which addresses in its broadcasts the various troubles that Azerbaijanis face in Iran.
According to their lawyer, the trial was not public and they were not given information about the progress of the investigation. Prior, Ark and Dashti were detained during a 2006 protest against an offensive cartoon published in “Iran” state-run newspaper insulting Azerbaijanis.
Azerbaijani organizations are suppressed
The pressure on Azerbaijani student organizations and press has increased in recent years, most of them have been closed down and Azerbaijani activists in those organizations have been detained.
Ghader Noruzi, director of Arman Student Organization was called to Marand intelligence office on March 3, 2010 and was interrogated. He was summoned following the publishing of a special issue about the role of women in Azerbaijani social movement in the organization’s journal, which was subsequently shut down.
Students have the right to establish organizations and publish journals in universities, however these organizations are still closed down and the journals are banned.
Arman is the only active student organization of Azerbaijanis in Iranian universities that has permission to organize cultural activities. The organization has published several publications throughout the past few years about Azerbaijani cultural, social and economical problems.
In the past years, numbers of other Azerbaijani student organizations were closed down, and dozens of student journals were banned.
Azerbaijani activists released from prison
Abdollah Sadughi, an Azerbaijani activist was released on March 10, 2010, on bail of 200 million Rials ($20,000) after 52 days of temporary detention to be tried later. The activist was released after a 21-day hunger strike against his long term arbitrary detention. Sadughi was arrested on January 18, 2010 after publishing a poster of Tractor FC football club, in Azerbaijani Turkish.
Sadughi is charged for movement against national security, propaganda against the regime and connection with foreigners based on his interviews with foreign radios and publication of Turkish poster of Tractor FC. The activist was tortured during the detention and was not allowed to access a lawyer or visit his family.
Amnesty International issued a public report on March 9, 2010, which called for freedom of Sadughi, access to medical treatment and a lawyer. Amnesty also indicated that his activities in demanding Azerbaijanis rights in Iran are peaceful.
Reza Abri, Azerbaijani, an cultural Activist was released after 76 days of temporary detention on bail of 200 millon Rials ($20,000) from Tabriz Prison. The activist was arrested on December 29, 2009 after his participation in the funeral ceremony of Changiz Bakhtaver (a prominent Azerbaijani activist whose death was suspicious.).
He was detained for movement in order to commit crime against national security, propaganda against the regime, membership in illegal groups, and establishing illegal cyber-groups. The activist was not allowed to access a lawyer or visit his family when he was detained. Reportedly he was tortured and subjected to other ill-treatments.
Prior to this, Abri was detained following Azerbaijanis demonstration of offensive cartoon in state-run “Iran” newspaper.
Ebadat Madadi Negharestan, an Azerbaijani political prisoner was released after serving his eight month jail term on March 17, 2010. Madadi was arrested on May 27, 2006 during the demonstration of offensive cartoon along with his two other brothers and was released after 35 days of temporary detention to be tried later.
Later he was tried on December 16, 2006 and was sentenced to 34 months of imprisonment. The appeals court reduced his jail term to eight months. He was charged with membership in illegal groups in order to violate the national security. The claims were based on his participation on demonstration and meetings such as funeral ceremonies. Madai has been detained several times because of his activities since 1996.
Ebrahim Esmaili, Azerbaijani cultural activist in Tabriz was released after 54 days of temporary detention on bail of 500 million Rials ($50,000) to be tired later. The activist was arrested on January 18, 2010 by security forces. The forces searched his home and took some of his personal property including his computer.
He was detained for propaganda against the regime, and spying for Republic of Azerbaijan. He was faced with spying charge after his trip to Azerbaijan. The activist was tortured during the detention and was not allowed to access a lawyer or visit his family.