Wednesday , 29 November 2023

Prominent Activist Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Protesting Downing of Ukrainian Passenger Plane

CHRI —For her participation in a peaceful gathering to condemn the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in January 2020, the prominent women’s and student rights activist Bahareh Hedayat has been sentenced to four years and eight months in prison, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.

“The authorities in Iran seem determined to crush every dissenting voice, throwing another four-year prison sentence at Ms. Hedayat after she already lost over six years of her life behind bars for her peaceful human rights activism,” said Hadi Ghaemi, CHRI executive director.

CHRI condemns this blatantly unlawful denial of freedom of expression and calls on the international community to demand that the Iranian judiciary upholds Bahareh Hedayat’s innocence on appeal.

The activist tweeted on July 25, 2020 that the court imposed a four-year prison sentence for “assembly and collusion against national security” because of her participation in a protest gathering in front of the entrance to Amir Kabir University in Tehran after the downing of the passenger plane, which killed all 176 people on board, and eight months in prison for waging “propaganda against the state” in her tweets about the tragedy.

“This ruling is only for a few years behind bars and some other restrictions. But those 176 people (who died in the plane crash) are gone and won’t come back, just like those who were killed in November [2019],” she wrote, referring to the hundreds killed by state security forces during the mass protests that swept the country that November.

Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran also banned her from civil rights activities for two years and ordered her to do three months of community service, Hedayat added.

If her appeal fails, the 39-year-old Tehran University political science graduate student would have to serve four years of her sentence behind bars, based on Article 134 of Iran’s Penal Code which states the harshest sentence of multiple sentences must be served.

Hedayat has been free on 200 million tomans bail ($47,441 USD) since her release on February 18, 2020, after spending nine days in detention.

Hedayat Previously Served Over Six Years in Prison for Defending Human Rights

This would be Hedayat’s third imprisonment for defending human rights if her sentence is upheld. From 2010 to 2016, she served 6.5 years behind bars for two consecutive sentences for her peaceful civil rights activities.

The UN ruled that her detention was “arbitrary” in May 2016 and called for her immediate release. She was released from prison in Iran in September 2016.

Hedayat is a senior member of the One Million Signatures Campaign for the Change of Discriminatory Laws Against Women and a former spokesperson for the nationwide Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat student union. In 2012 she was awarded the Edelstam Prize for her “outstanding courage and commitment to justice actively worked against the violation of the Human Rights in Iran.”

Many Others Sentenced to Prison, Flogging for Protesting Downing of Passenger Plane

Iran’s judiciary has also prosecuted many others for protesting the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane by missiles fired by the IRGC soon after it took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8, 2020.

So far, no one has been charged for causing the crash.

Three days after the crash, when the IRGC finally admitted responsibility through “human error” after numerous public denials, gatherings were held in several cities, especially at university campuses, to condemn the missile attack and express sympathy for the victims.

In many instances, intervention by riot police units and plain-clothed security agents, including the use of tear-gas, led to the violent arrest of many protesters.

In May 2020, at least 16 protesters were given prison and flogging sentences in Amol, northern Iran, alone. They had been arrested by the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization on January 12, 2020, in the city’s main square where they had gathered to commemorate the victims.

They included Shora Fekri, Mohsen Rezaei, Meysam Khalili, Mehdi Raei and Salman Farrokhi, who on April 24 were sentenced to five months each in prison for “propaganda against the state” by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Amol, presided by Judge Morteza Mahdavi.

Eleven others — Amin Forouhi, Ali Shokri, Azadeh Javani, Aydin Javani, Ayda Javani, Alireza Mohammadnejad, Fereshteh Mahmoudi, Hossein Mostafania, Meysam Khodabandehlou, Hamid Mohammadi Irani and Mohammad Reza Shojaei — were sentenced to eight months each in prison for “propaganda against the state” by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court and an additional five months in prison and 20 lashes each ordered by the Criminal Court in Amol for “disturbing order.” The sentence issued by the Criminal Court has been suspended for one year.

On May 18, civil rights activist Shora Fekri was taken to prison in Amol to begin serving her five-month prison sentence.

In Mashhad, northeast Iran, theater producer Masoud Hokmabadi, was sentenced to three years in prison on June 12 for declining to attend the Fajr International Theater Festival in protest against the downing of the Ukrainian plane.

Also in April, Tehran University students Mostafa Hashemi Zadeh and Amir Mohammad Sharifi  were sentenced to six years and three months in prison respectively for their participation in the protest against the IRGC’s role in the tragedy.

Read about this case in Persian.