October 14, 2007

Letter to Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Shahroudi

What you read below was originally sent to the head of Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, as a private letter, some names and phrases of which following friends’ suggestion were omitted I incorporate them here again in brackets. Furthermore, as many months have lapsed, dates are amended and a few phrases added atthe end. Now, I publish the letter in its entirety for the court of public conscience which is the real arbiter.


TO: The Honorable Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Shahroudi,
Head of the Judiciary
The Islamic Republic of Iran
&
Court of Conscience of anyone who reads this letter

Greetings,

It is really not necessary to mention Articles 19 to 42 of the third chapter of the Constitution, entitled, “The Rights of the People.” But perhaps their reference can be an appropriate preface to my letter. The articles are as follows:

• Article 19 stipulates equal rights of the people of Iran;
• Article 20 clarifies the law’s equal protection of men and women;
• Article 22 insists on guarantees regarding the protection of reputation, life, rights, home, and employment.
• Article 23 concerns prohibition of inquisition into personal beliefs, and includes the freedom to hold beliefs without fear of interrogation;
• Article 24 concerns freedom of expression and press;
• Article 25 forbids eavesdropping;
• Article 26 guarantees freedom of association, formation of parties and political societies, and trade unions;
• Article 27 gives freedom to hold rallies and protest peaceful demonstrations;
• Article 28 gives the right to employment;
• Article 32 prohibits detention of individuals for more than 24 hours, and requires the filing of formal charges against individuals and explanation of those charges for it with summons and during the detention period.
• Article 34 entitles individuals to plead for justice and file complaints;
• Article 35 gives the right to choose an attorney,
• Article 37 insists on the principle of innocence prior to being proven guilty;
• Article 38 prohibits all kinds of torture; and
• Article 39 rejects any debasing and disgracing of prisoners or detainees.

Here, I do not intend to mention the violation of all these constitutional guarantees in my case. Prior to Mr Khatami’s first term in office, and before the rise of Iran’s reform movement, my family and I were subject to serious threats and harm, making us always fearful while walking on the streets. Anywhere I was I had to call home several times a day to relieve family concerns and worries. Any delay in turn placed my family under tremendous duress. For that reason in 1999, I dedicated my book The Tragedy of Democracy to my wife and daughters “who were my fellow travelers in these distressing years.”

For a variety reasons, I will skip these details of what happened to me prior to 1995 and postpone them for a more appropriate opportunity. Here I will merely recount some post-1995 incidences threats and harms briefly:

1. In 1995, I was summoned to the Special Court for the Clergy and was interrogated for several hours. I was faced with heavy and baseless accusations, the consequences of which were quite obvious in the particular atmosphere and silence of those days.

2. In the academic year 1995-96, I was prohibited from teaching as a university lecturer, and my classes were terminated in the middle of the semester.

3. I obtained a license for publishing activities, but the Ministry of Intelligence, in the period of Mr Fallahian’s tenure, sent a formal notice to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to the effect that I was not competent to publish and instructed to void my license.

4. I was employed in the research bureau of the Institute for the Collection and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works, but the intelligence authorities exerted such a pressure on the institute’s officials that I forced to resign and ultimately ended working as a laborer in the outskirts of Tehran (Saleh-abad near behesht Zahra) to earn a living, although, after a short time, I restarted my research. After Khatami was voted in as the elected president, I though the situation would change, but unfortunately the situation continues.

5. In 1999, no sooner than the independent free press had begun to operate, breathing oxygen after a long period of censorship, that threats against me and some of my friends intensified to such an extent that a member of the security services made an appointment with Akbar Ganji and I, and informed us of a National Security Council letter stating that our lives were seriously endangered by some local and foreign agents. He also told us that the security services been assigned to protect our lives. For the time being, I refrain from speaking out about the sources of threats. But from then until we were imprisoned we were under the protection of the police force. Nevertheless, in a sudden and astonishing manner, Saeed Hajjarian was assassinated.


6. On 13 March 1999, after several weeks of stoking the fire by Kayhan Daily, I was summoned by the public prosecutor’s office and was interrogated for many hours. Those who have experienced such proceedings know about the extent to which each summons and interrogation session keeps the individual’s life in suspension.

7. In June 2000, I was summoned once again, and relying on baseless accusations, I was sentenced to 7 1/2 years of prison, which was commuted to three years in appeal. I endured the whole period of imprisonment, during which I submitted 49 petitions to Judges’ Disciplinary Court, none of which were responded to. None of the accusations against me were proven and for this reason the court, which was nominally announced to be held openly, was in practice held secretly; and did not even allow me to have the court discussions with me (a copy of such material is supposed to be given to the defendant by law). I was also not given permission to publish important parts of my defense.

8. During the past 25 years, my main employment has been research and writing. I have published 21 books, collections of articles, and translations; seven of them either banned before publication or recalled from stores after having been published. Those who are involved in writing or publishing know of the immense spiritual and material loss that is imposed on an author if even one of his or her books is not published for any excuse. This loss is particularly painful when some of these books, printed and circulated in tens of thousands of copies, and the author is not permitted to sell them legally. Under these circumstances book smugglers sell them in the black market, making enormous profits, without any concern about the author’s intellectual property rights. I was unemployed for several months after I was released from prison. During this period no one asked me how I earned my living. In fact, I led a barely subsisted thanks to the wages I had received as an author.

9. In early 2003, I was summoned by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and without any legal explanation was prohibited from interviews with foreign Persian speaking radio stations, including Radio Farda, Voice of America (explicitly), BBC and Voice of France (implicitly).

10. Eventually, I prepared a joint project with the National Organization for the Youth but officials From the State’s Inspectorate Office came there to investigate the nature of my cooperation, creation concerns for the organization.

11. I began to publish Jomhouriyat Daily relying on a sociological approach. Although we spent five months to organize and plan for its publication, Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s public prosecutor banned the daily after only two weeks. Since some authorities, including Mr. Masjed Jamei, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, were informed that my position as the daily’s editor-in-chief was the main reason for the closure, I offered to resign in order to protect the paper’s survival and prevent tens of my co-workers against unemployment, but they insisted on the ban.

12. Some people might think that Sharqh daily is a base for my activities, simply because my son-in-law is its editor in chief; but after publishing some articles of mine, this daily was also threatened to be banned (by Tehran’s public prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi). They have been told not to carry even one editorial written by me (Emadeddin Baghi). He [Mr. Mortazavi] does not issue any written order, because he wants to prevent publication through force and without written orders so that he can deny his remarks whenever anyone mentions his action. This way he can accuse the claimant of spreading lies, a chargeable offense (of course, it is possible that the public prosecutor is following orders from higher authorities). Thus, for approximately 11/2 years Sharqh occasionally published short reports about me but did not carry any editorials from me in order to endure and survive. Of course, Mr. Mosen Ejei, the judiciary representative in the Press Supervisory Board, has even shown his sensitiveness and opposition to such these occasional apolitical. Such limitations are presently being imposed upon other dailies too.

13. Furthermore, I have information that my telephone calls are listened to, my house is under surveillance, and everything about it is under monitor by cameras and eavesdropping devices. My family and I do not feel safe in our privacy. This is while we engage in no secret activity (ies), and my writing activities are being performed within the confines of current laws. According to an automotive technical specialist, even my car is also equipped with eavesdropping devices. The reality is that under these circumstances I spend my family life conveniently and happily, because I have nothing to hide I am happy to have my view heard by one more person and even through eaves dropping. But the use of such devices and resorting to such methods is very dangerous and a blatant violation of the citizenship right, and against human rights.

14. Four and a half years have passed since my release for prison. During this period, I have summoned to court twenty three times. In the first 1 ½ years, I was summoned to the court 9 times and to the Intelligence Ministry one time and in the past two years I was summoned to the intelligence ministry and court 14 times, out of which a total of three has led to my conviction. With recurrent summons I have been kept in limbo and unstable situation,, preventing long range planning in my life.

15. With all doors closed, the only way for me to survive was to attend seminars and conferences on academic and human rights issues; but that door was closed as well and so was traveling abroad. On Monday, Oct, 5th, 2004, 4:30 in the morning, my family and I went to Tehran Mehrabad Airport. After checking our baggage section, paying the exit charges, and waiting in customs queue, exit stamps were placed on our passports at 6:30 a.m. A couple of days beforehand, I had made sure that I was not forbidden to travel abroad. The airport customs office house, too, checked my name in the list of those whose exit from the country was forbidden on the monitor and as my name was not on it After exit stamps, legally speaking, I had crossed the border. After passing the customs check, however, an officer came to us and took my passport and all handbags belonging to my wife and my daughters, I and led me to an office representing the “Institution of Presidency.” A few minutes after arriving there, we were surprised to see that all our baggage that had been checked in was there, all already opened and searched. The had checked our CDs and tapes, one by one, but could not find anything except a few permissible film CDs, an invitation sent by the Parkinson Foundation and 40 or 50 books, mostly my own publications, and some notes and pieces of paper. Their search method was as if they were inspecting a person suspected of passing along nuclear information to foreign agents. Their inspection lasted until 11:30 am, by which time we were exhausted. Surprisingly, their answer to my objection was that they have a judicial order with them, but did not show me any order and everything was done based on a verbal order. Furthermore, my passport was and I was notified formally that everything was done on the basis of a request from the Special Court for the Clergy and I must contact them. This is while no one can be prohibited from travel without a court verdict. while they could prohibit one’s travel only by the order of a court announcing that one’s travel abroad was prohibited; but, ironically I had not been tried, or sentenced, or even summoned by any court, including the Special Court for justice in recent years, and an exit stamp was even placed on my passport. Such an action is a blatant example of human rights violation. Article 13 in the Universal Declaration of Human rights, reads: Everybody has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the rights to leave any country, including his own and to return to his country. If I wanted to speak about the violation of human rights in Iran during my travel abroad, these actions provided yet another example of their violation through the prohibition of travel abroad. The right to travel is an indispensable civil right of any individual and no state, authority or institution is allowed to deny it. Only if one is accused of committing murder and there is fear of flight from punishment, or if one has stolen private properties or embezzled from the public, and the possibility of redress is undermined by flight of the accused, then exit from the country may be prohibited. Unfortunately, writers are insulted in our country. It was in such circumstances that my books were inspected and listed as forbidden objects and criminal tools. Is this not an unethical action? They can inform individuals, especially well-known ones, that they are not permitted to leave the country; but instead, after allowing them to spenc much time and resources preparing for travel and having arranged programs to leave the country for some weeks, and after having made tens of appointments with friends and relatives living abroad, they inform the individuals that they are prohibited from travel as they are exiting the country for the sole purpose of tormenting them. Since these things happen to other citizens in the airports everyday, but their voices are not heard, I am using my example and my treatment as a means to give voice to many voiceless citizens.

16. The day before my flight, I was under open surveillance. Sunday, in the afternoon, two motorcyclists, who were following me, attacked one of my relatives, who had gone to the Argentine Square to bring a parcel of mine from a car parked there, stealing my parcel. My friend was frightened by the use of knives and other tools of murder. Perhaps, the attackers thought they could cancel my travels by stealing my passport and my other travel documents. This way I could not file a complaint in any court, particularly since theft is so frequent that no one could suspected anything otherwise. Motorcyclists were following me even after my friend was attacked until midnight when I went home. One does not feel secure in the streets when he is under such surveillance. I feel anxious about our daughters from the moment they leave for school or the university, in the morning, until their return; and this story is repeated every day.

17. From the time we organized the Association for Defending Rights of Prisoners in Iran, we have been under intense pressure, the last one being the State Inspection Office’s communication with the Ministry of Interior, objecting to the issuance of license for the Association’s activities. A copy of the Association’s license was taken for review and it is being examined in order to find an excuse to cancel the license. This is while, according to its articles of association, the Association is a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political entity, performing only human rights-related activities, with prisoners of conscience as well as all other prisoners as subjects of its activities. The Association merely performs legal, research and service activities. It is worth remembering remind that according to the constitutional of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the universal Declaration of Human Rights, establishing such entities need not be authorized by government officials. However, we have respected the existing regulations regarding required licensing, in order to placate excuses for the banning of the Association’s activity.

18. The next action was the conversion of my one year of suspended sentence to one year of imprisonment, when the initial suspended sentence itself had no logical basis in the first place. This is so because:

A: The Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Court issued the sentence last year without a trial. As my trial was not openly held, my attorney was not allowed to attend, and the trial was held without jury, I considered it incompetent and did not attend. Here, a question occurs to mind: “On the basis of which defense, the above- mentioned branch of the court issued its sentence in my case?

B. I was not informed of many of the charges in the judgment before hand.

C. All of the charges were related to writings that clearly hinted at a political- press case, prosecution of which is prohibited as a general rule in Article 168 of the constitution.

D. In any case, sentences had already been issued for many of the same pieces of writing and I had already served my sentence.

E. My assertions, published in those articles, were not crimes at all. Expression of one’s ideas and beliefs freely, if in doing so no crime is committed, is not a crime for which a trial should be held.

Here, I would like to add other constraints imposed upon me that occurred after I sent you my previous letter.

19. In 2004, I submitted a written request to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, asking for the establishment of a cultural institution. I presented myself as the founder and my spouse as a member of the founding board. My competence was rejected by the Khatami Administration’s Ministry of Intelligence. Later in November 2004, I followed up my request, writing letters to the minister of intelligence and Majles representative, but there have been no responses and my spouse and I have been deprived of our rights to be employed. Now, I ask you, which other ways remain for us to realize our rights to have employment and earn our living? Does my spouse also have to be victimized for being my life partner?

20. Jame’eye No Magazine (meaning The new society) whose managing director is my spouse Mrs. Fatemeh Kamali Ahmad saraii was published for 3 years. But eventually it was closed by the will of Mr. Mohseni Eje’i, and then the Press Supervisory Board, dominated by conservatives, revoked its license on the suggestion of Mr. Mohseni Eje’i. After the submission of a written report by its managing director to the effect that the magazine had not violated Article 16 of the Press Act, Mr Eje’i said in a board session: “This magazine is guilty in terms of content as it promotes secularism.” Without any rational justification the magazine’s license was voided (See Sharqh, 13 and 14 March 2005). This is while Mrs. Kamali went on the trial in the Press Court for 5 charges and thanks to her documented and strong arguments , the jury and the court ruled her innocence> But the cancellation of the magazine’s license remains. Should my wife be victimized on the grounds that she is my life partner?

21. In February 2006, I was invited to France to receive that country’s National Commission Human Rights Award but despite my persistent correspondences and follow-up and also the mediation of certain political figures, I was not allowed to leave the country.

22. In Feb 2007, I was invited to deliver my speech in the Global Congress against the Death Penalty in Paris. Yet again, I was denied the right to travel despite all my efforts and I was thus forced to send someone to read my paper on my behalf.

23. In addition to the banned books mentioned in 8 above, after a two-year hold in 1385 (2006), seven other titles of mine, including a collection of my articles already published in the press, have not been granted permission for publication by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture’s Bureau of Books. Furthermore, I received no response from the Ministry’s officials in this regard (See gooya news, ILNA, BBC Persian, and Radio Farda, Nov 26, 2006; various Persian print media, Nov 27, 2006).

24. As I write this letter, I have also been informed in writing that I have two new cases being brought up against me: one in the First Security Branch of the Revolutionary Court and one in the Press Court. It is not clear what the outcome of these two court proceedings will be but one thing is clear and that is another round of being suspended in my life.

25. The latest action (in the first half of August 2007), was to issuance of three-year sentences for myself, my daughter, my spouse and my spouse’s nephew. This action is at the moment in the process of appeal.

26. 0n 20 August 2007, our offices and computers at DPRS was burglarized at night. Saved data and information was copied and then erased, causing much pain an irritation among my colleagues/.

Let it be noted that this letter is by no means a reaction to the prison sentence I have just received since one who has faced death many times regards incarceration to be too petty of an issue for which to write a letter.


What Will You Do?

During the height of 1979 Revolution, I performed martyrdom ablutions and went out in the streets, but the draw for martyrdom did not fall upon me. In the events that happened in 1982 and 1983, I survived two attempted Mojahedin-e Khalqh terrorist assassinations. During the war too there was a chance for martyrdom, but was not realized. The three-year experience of imprisonment also showed that even 30 years of prison will not have any effect(s) on my will. This is because I did not do anything beyond the framework of law and of my assured civil rights. Now, I specifically ask you, as a responsible authority bound by law to provide for citizens’ security, to think about what should be done.

Kindly put yourself in my place, as a person who is pleading for justice, and tell me what you might have done in such circumstances? Tell me in what ways my current situation is different from being in prison? What difference does it make to be on this or that side of the wall? Tell me where the red lines? And how does a writer or any citizen who wishes to enjoy one’s right to express his beliefs and ideas freely, criticize, and object should write and speak; how such a person, whose right to write and speak is just the same as anybody’s right to consume drinking water and breathe air, should express one’s ideas so that he is not summoned before the court of justice every day, and not threatened to be kept in prison for it? If everything is to be said or written according to the statesmen’s tastes, then for what reason freedom of expression is needed? Why is it not possible to establish a non-governmental, non-profit and non-political and a merely human rights entity, performing its activities in a lawful manner, without being confronted with overt and covert threats?

Although my letter elaborated on my personal situation, its most important point and purpose is to inform you that what is mentioned here is insignificant in comparison to what has happened to thousands and thousands of other citizens in our land. In this way you might become informed about what is going on in the country in which you have the highest responsibility as an official and are accountable for any oppression that happens within it. This is while according to Islamic teachings, Imam Ali says that a Muslim deserves to give up his life life, when he hears of the theft of the Jewish girl’s anklets.

The Honorable Ayatollah Shahroudi, according to Article 156 of the constitution, the Judiciary must be the protector of the citizen’s individual and social rights. It is responsible for the realization of justice and promotion of legitimate freedoms. Meanwhile, you have recently issued the circular of citizens’ rights, which became law in the ending days of the sixth Majles. Later you submitted your proposal regarding the establishment of a human (or citizens) rights court of justice. It is for this reason that I write this letter for your information and await your response.

I wish you increased health and success.

Once my ablutions at the fountain of love
Desisting from what exists
Seekers of truth transverse the road of calamity
For not thinking of ups and downs

Emadeddin Baghi
wednzday, 18mehr 1386
29ramadan 1428
10oct 2007



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