August 3, 2019
Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani, members of the Iranian heavy metal band Confess, have left Iran to escape prosecution and prison for their art.
“We took a risk and left the country so that we could continue our work,” Khosravi said in an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on July 27, 2019.
On July 3, 2019, Branch 34 of the Appeals Court in Tehran sentenced Khosravi to 12.5 years in prison and 74 lashes and Ilkhani was given two years in prison plus a four-year suspended prison sentence.
Both were charged with “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state.” But Khosravi was later slapped with additional charges, including “insulting the Supreme Leader and President” as well as “disturbing public opinion through the production of music containing anti-regime lyrics and insulting content and for participating in interviews with the opposition media.”
Khosravi and Ilkhani were arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Organization after publishing their second album in November 2015. At the time, they were undergraduate students at the Islamic Azad University, Roudehen Branch, near Tehran, studying English translation.
They were initially held in solitary confinement for 10 days in Evin Prison’s Ward 2-A, under the control of the IRGC, and then moved to a public ward for month, before being released on bail.
In March 2016, they were arrested once again and held for two months, during which time they were put on trial.
“After the trial in (Branch 28 of) the Revolutionary Court, I was banned from leaving the country. But I got myself illegally smuggled across the border into Turkey,” Khosravi told CHRI. “I continued my musical work and also gave interviews about the verdict against me and Arash and what had happened during interrogations and the trial. I also published the original verdict, which resulted in new charges against me.”
The Appeals Court hearing was held on July 25, 2018, and February 24, 2019, during which Ilkhani was present along with his lawyer.
“After the second appeal hearing, Arash called me very worried and said he was sure the sentence against him would be upheld. He said the judge was really angry. So I contacted the organization that had helped me get asylum in Norway and asked if they could do the same for Arash. About 10-12 days later Arash got out of Iran. He was able to go to Turkey because there was no travel ban on him and three weeks later he came to Norway.”