People protest against increased gas price, on a highway in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019. (Reuters)

August 31, 2020

Many political and civil activists are condemning the prison sentences of signatories to an anti-Islamic Republic government letter widely known as the “77 Statement.”

Following the brutal crackdown on protesters in November 2019, 77 political activists with various pro-reform backgrounds issued a statement condemning the shooting of protesters as a “crime” and calling for the prosecution of the figures involved.

The Iranian judiciary sentenced several signatories to one to five years in prison. The imprisoned citizens, each of whom were sentenced to a year behind bars, included Ali Shakouri Rad and Mohsen Armin, former members of Iran’s Majlis parliament; Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, the son of an imprisoned dissident clergy; and Sediqeh Vasmaqi, a former Tehran city counselor.

In response, an exiled dissident website, Kalemeh, published a statement by dozens of Iranian political and civil activists on Friday, August 28, condemning the verdicts and calling for the immediate acquittal of the convicts. The statement point to Iran’s coronavirus outbreak, which has forced Iran to be semi-closed, reading, “Apparently, what cannot be closed down in Iran is sentencing its responsible and libertarian citizens.”

The new statement accuses judiciary officials of “prosecuting citizens who, out of compassion, defended the citizens’ rights, and warned the authorities and protesters about the country’s security and credibility,” claiming they should have been investigating the causes of the 2019 protests and prosecuting the perpetrators responsible for killing ordinary people.

The statement also highlighted the case of Shakouri Rad, the Secretary-General of the Etihad Mellat party (Union of Islamic Iran People Party), saying that his imprisonment sends a public message implying that the country’s political establishment neither tolerates peaceful street protests nor recognize individuals’ freedom.

Claiming that the Iranian government responds to criticism solely through detention and imprisonment, the statement’s signatories call on judicial officials to “act under Article 168 of the Islamic Republic Constitution and to acquit all those convicted immediately, and show that they are seeking to reform the judiciary.”

Article 168 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic stipulates that the investigation of political and media crimes must be carried out in public and a jury’s presence.

The signatories to the new statement include former legislators Parvaneh Salahshouri, Hashem Aghajari, and Hashem Sabbaghian; Mostafa Tajzadeh, the former caretaker of the Interior Ministry; Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri; and pro-reform ideologist Saeid Hajjarian.

RFE-RL

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.