By Pouyan Khoshhal
October 20, 2020
The eight-year prison sentence handed down to Alireza Alinejad, the brother of journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad, has been upheld, a lawyer working on the case has announced.
Saeed Dehghan, one of Alinejad’s lawyers and an editor and writer, said on October 18 that Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals ruled that the sentence be upheld.
Alireza Alinejad’s arrest by Revolutionary Guards’ security agents on September 25, 2019 is widely believed to be an effort to threaten and intimidate his sister Masih, who has had a long-running battle with Iranian authorities and now lives in the United States.
His lawyers have described the eight-year sentence as “illegal,” and Masih Alinejad referred to the verdict when it was first handed down as “eight years in prison on charges of being a brother.” His conviction, on three separate charges and issued after several different hearings, came after lengthy detention and torture, during which he refused to speak out against his sister.
On Sunday, October 18, 2020, Saeed Dehghan wrote on Twitter: “None of the protests against the illegal verdict issued by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran have been heeded.”
According to the verdict issued by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh in July 2020, Alinejad was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “conspiracy to act against national security,” to two years on charges of “insulting the leader,” and to one year in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime.”
With the confirmation of this sentence in the Court of Appeals and citing Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, authorities say Alireza Alinejad must remain in prison for another four years.
Saeed Dehghan also tweeted that he and Arash Kaykhosravi, another of Alinejad’s lawyers, intended “to publish the defense bills in the case soon.”
“Don’t be silent, talk”
At the time of Alireza Alinejad’s arrest in September 2019, Masih Alinejad released a video of her brother speaking before his arrest, in which he described how government officials had pressured their parents to take a public stand against the journalist’s activities, and to speak on television about her alleged crimes. Their mother, Zarrin Badpa, had been interrogated as part of this tactic.
In the video, Alinejad encouraged his sister and said she shouldn’t stop her work. He said if he was arrested she should go public with the details. “Don’t be silent, talk,” he said, and urged her not to worry.
Masih Alinejad said her brother had been targeted because he had revealed to his sister the Revolutionary Guards’ plan to lure her to Turkey, arrest her, and return her to Iran.
The organization Reporters Without Borders has regularly reported on the detention of journalists’ families in Iran, including Alizreza Alinejad, stating that they had been “taken hostage” and calling on the Iranian government to stop its harassment and torture of journalists and their families.
Following the initial sentencing of her brother, Masih Alinejad called on human rights organizations and the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran to “strongly condemn this act of hostage-taking,” warning that remaining silent could mean that the lives and freedom of other Iranian journalists and civil society activists and their families could be at risk. It was particularly dangerous for the families of journalists based outside the country, since authorities target families because they don’t have direct access to the activist or journalist.
Alireza Alinejad was transferred to the general ward at Evin Prison on May 7, 2020, after 225 days of being detained in Ward A-2, which is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, In the later stages of the case, during the court hearings and in the run-up to the verdict being issued and the appeals trial, he was held in one of the prison’s detention centers.
Other people to have been targeted in this way include Farangis Mazloum, the mother of Soheil Arabi, a photographer and citizen journalist imprisoned in Iran who has been sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “collusion and gathering against national security” and “propaganda against the regime.” She informed the media about the conditions her son was being held in and protested against the cruel and inhuman treatment to which he had been subjected. During her time on Ward 209 at Evin Prison, she had been held in solitary confinement for long periods.