January 22, 2019 – Reza Khandan and Farhad Meysami have both been sentenced to six years imprisonment in Iran and banned from leaving the country or engaging in online activities for two years for peacefully protesting the country’s compulsory hijab law.
“Iran wants to silence these men by jailing them for standing by women who want the hijab to be a choice, not a requirement,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The only crime they committed is peacefully exercising their rights of freedom of speech and expression,” said Ghaemi. “Iran’s judiciary should heed their calls for a fair and public trial and release them.”
In an interview with CHRI, Khandan, the husband of imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, said he was unlawfully denied a public trial.
On January 22, 2019, he and Meysami were both convicted of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state” at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran presided by Judge Abolqasem Salavati—notorious in Iran for bending to the wishes of security agencies.
“The law says that political cases should be tried publicly in a criminal court in the presence of a jury,” said Khandan. “But for years the judiciary has turned political cases into national security ones in order to try them through the revolutionary court system.”
According to Article 168 of Iran’s Constitution, “Political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice.”
But countless activists, dissidents and other detainees held on politically motivated charges have been sentenced to prison without due process in sessions as brief as 10 minutes in Iran’s revolutionary court system.
After posting several updates about his wife’s June 2018 arrest online, Khandan was also arrested on September 4, 2018, and transported to Evin Prison and Tehran. He was released on bail on December 24.
Sotoudeh, one of the country’s top defense attorneys and human rights advocates, was arrested after defending women who were being being prosecuted for peacefully protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab law by removing it in public. She is facing multiple charges.
Meysami remains in Evin Prison where he has been held since his arrest on July 31, 2018. The agents who raided his home confiscated badges that said, “I am against compulsory hijab,” which were then used to convict him in court.
“In addition to the six-year prison sentence, I have been banned from carrying out any online activity for two years,” Khandan told CHRI. “That means I won’t be able to inform the public about my wife’s situation or even exchange greeting messages with a friend or purchase things online.”
Khandan and Meysami had protested against being denied a public trial by refusing to show up to three of their four court sessions.
“They told me if I appeared at the last court session, I would be granted bail,” Khandan said. “So I attended because of my circumstances and my kids’ situation, even though I didn’t believe in the court’s legitimacy. Mr. Meysami attended, too.”
Khandan and Sotoudeh have two children, one of whom is in grade school. Prison officials have repeatedly denied Sotoudeh opportunities to see her children.
It remains to be seen what will happen to the children if both their parents are imprisoned at the same time.
Meysami, who is also a physician, was forcibly kept in the prison clinic and put on an IV drip in August 2018 after he went on a prolonged hunger strike to demand justice for himself as well as Sotoudeh and Khandan.
Highlighting the cases of the three activists, UN human rights experts have called on Iran to guarantee the rights of human rights defenders and lawyers who have been jailed for publicly supporting protests against the mandatory hijab.
“The judiciary is trying to paint their cases as a national security issue when it’s clearly about the Iranian people’s right to freedom of expression,” said Ghaemi. “No amount of spin is going to be able to conceal that fact.”