June 22, 2020
A young Iranian labor and civil rights activist, Sepideh Qolyan (Gholian) went back to prison on Sunday after she refused to petition the Supreme Leader for clemency.
Ms. Qolyan, 25, had been sentenced to five years in jail for her role in a labor protest at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane industrial complex in 2018, in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, southwest Iran.
Earlier, she had announced that the judge in charge of her legal case had threatened that if she does not write a petition to the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and request a pardon, she would be placed behind bars in Qarchak prison, south of the Iranian capital city, Tehran.
Insisting on her innocence, Qolayn dismissed the offer and surrendered herself to the authorities on Sunday to serve her term in jail.
Qolyan was free on bail after Iran released thousands of prisoners during the height of the coronavirus crisis but unlike thousands, she did not receive a furlough.
In recent months, an unknown number of the detainees linked to the Haft Tapeh legal case have been either pardoned or released after the deadly virus outbreak.
In a video message on Tuesday, June 16, Qolyan disclosed on her Instagram page that she had refused to write a letter requesting a pardon from Khamenei. “I refused. Therefore, I must report back to Qarchak Prison next Sunday,” Qolyan reiterated.
Along with nearly twenty workers of the Haft Tapeh Industrial complex, Qolyan was arrested on November 2018 in the city of Shush, and transferred to the capital city of the province, Ahvaz. The workers were protesting unpaid wages.
Later, Qolyan and the spokesman of the Haft Tapeh workers, Esmail Bakhshi, claimed that they had been brutally tortured by the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic Judiciary not only refused to investigate the allegation but sentenced Qolyan to five years in prison.
The monopolized state-run TV also aired a video against Qolyan, Bakhshi, and several other labor rights activists, accusing them of having links with the anti-Islamic Republic forces outside Iran.
Harsh verdicts against the Haft Tapeh protesters were issued at a time when the Director-General of the industrial complex, Omid Assad Gaigui, is not only accused of multiple embezzlements but receiving a record-breaking $1.5 billion bank loan without paying back.
The wife of Khuzestan Governor is also accused of receiving 200,000 euros bribe from the Director-General of the Haft Tapeh.
Sepideh Qalyan, 25, has two other cases in the Islamic Republic’s judiciary in addition to her five-year sentence in the Tapeh protests: the publication of news about the Iranian-Arabic speaking minorities behind bars in the Islamic Republic. She is also accused of revealing the identity of an Iranian TV reporter, Ms. Ameneh Zabihpour, who allegedly acts as an intelligence agent and interrogator.