Translation by Iran Press Watch
Moin Mohammadi Dahij, a Baha’i resident of Yazd, was sentenced by the Yazd Province Appeals Court to one year of electronic monitoring for the charge of “propaganda against the regime by teaching the Baha’i Faith in cyberspace”.
During his sentence, he is limited to movement within the vicinity of the city of Yazd, and the route to his workplace in the industrial town of Ishkaz.
Electronic incarceration or monitoring is a form of controlling the accused or offenders. In this system, the accused or the offenders are monitored by a smart electronic device, such as a bracelet or anklet, in their interactions with their family within a specific area.
Electronic monitoring has been approved and adopted in Islamic Penal Law since 2013, and the courts can order those sentenced to up to five years in prison, or to monetary fine up to 18 million tumans (about $5,400), to serve their sentence by electronic monitoring.
Regarding his sentence to monitoring by electronic anklet, Moin Mohammadi says: “The Appeals Court judge asked my attorney to request monitoring by electronic anklet. In fact, we made the request at his suggestion. The area of movement was then set as far as my workplace in the town of Ishkaz. Of course, until the sentence is enforced, it is not known whether a bracelet or an anklet will be used. But, basically the device is designed to send a signal to their monitoring center if it is removed from my body. Apparently, at the time the device is affixed, a collateral amount is charged to cover any damages caused by my potential errors, and there is also a monthly rental charge.”
This Baha’i citizen is unhappy with the sentence. He believes he has not committed any crimes, and will only be vindicated by an acquittal and exoneration. Moin Mohammadi’s other concern is that if the monitoring device is fitted with a listening device, this will be a constant invasion of his privacy.
The preliminary court ruling indicates that Mohammadi’s propaganda activities were established for the court by the contents of his Tweets and creating the hashtag “#life_under_discrimination”. Moin Mohammadi was arrested by plainclothes police on a street on January 9, 2019. After a three-month temporary detention, he was released on five billion rials (approx. $150,000) bail on April 10, 2019, pending the communication and enforcement of the verdict.
This Baha’i citizen denies creating the hashtag #life_under_discrimination, and believes his only charge is that he is a Baha’i. The hashtag #life_under_discrimination was created at 9:00 P.M. on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, by the Shahrvand-Yar (Citizen’s Friend) institution, in protest against the violation of the civil rights of Baha’is. Moin Mohammadi tells IranWire that on that site he has written about the violation of his and his family’s rights. He participated in the nationwide university entrance exam three times, but each time was barred from admission to university under the excuse of an incomplete file. The phrase “incomplete file” is a code used in recent years for barring followers of the Baha’i Faith from admission to universities.
Since the 1979 Revolution, in spite of passing the nationwide university entrance exam, many Baha’is were deprived of the right to pursue higher education. Some were admitted to a university, but midway through their studies were given two options by the Protection and Preservation agents at the university – to recant their belief in the Baha’i Faith and continue their studies, or be expelled from the university.
University is not the only subject that Moin Mohammadi has referred to under the hashtag #life_under_discrimination. Under this same hashtag he revisits all the painful memories of his life. He has written about his elderly grandfather, whose retirement pension was discontinued because he was a Baha’i, and his mother, who was dismissed from work for the same excuse. He recounts the story of his maternal great-grandfather who passed away before the Islamic Revolution, but his property was confiscated after the Revolution on a charge of “membership in the Baha’i administration”, and his ties with seven Baha’is executed in 1981.
The freedom to choose one’s occupation is another right that Baha’is have been denied since the 1979 Revolution. Their businesses have been shut down under various excuses, and many of their properties have been confiscated.
Moin Mohammadi says: “The first interaction with me occurred in August 2018, when an individual contacted my mobile phone and summoned me for “some explanations” to the Yazd security police office. Since I had not received an official summons, I did not go there. On October 7, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, with a search warrant in hand for a charge of “disruption of public order”, came to my family home, and confiscated a large number of books, personal items, such as photographs and anything related to the Baha’i Faith. The search of my home was conducted when I was not present. This encounter with the security forces was all prior to the date of the creation of the hashtag #life_under_discrimination, which shows that my arrest, and the charge against me of creating this hashtag, are just a coverup for the real charge which is that I am a Baha’i.
On the circumstances of his arrest, Moin Mohammadi says: “On the morning of Wednesday, December 22, around 7:00 A.M., I was in my personal vehicle leaving the alley into the street to go to work, when a Xantia car blocked my way, and its passengers, producing a judicial ruling, arrested me and confiscated all my identity documents. Even though I was only 50 meters from my house, and I asked them to let me tell my family, they refused, and took me to Yazd Islamic Revolutionary Court, blindfolded and in handcuffs. I was arraigned in Branch 6 of the court presided over by Vahid Pahizkar.”
He was originally charged with three counts: “activity against national security”, “propaganda against the regime” and “membership in anti-regime groups” – but the charge of “activity against national security” was dropped during the interrogation phase.
Moin Mohammadi remembers the first session of his interrogation well: “In this session, the interrogation referred to Tweets by me and others using the hashtag #life_under_discrimination as being misleading and prejudicial. He also interpreted my writing the word “Tehran” as “طهران” instead of ”تهران” (using the letter “Ta ط“ rather than “Teh ت”), as a sign of hatred. I reminded him of the words of Mr. Mohammad Javad Zarif in international gatherings, indicating that belief in the Baha’i Faith is not a crime, at which the interrogator said: “Zarif is a politician. He is not familiar with the laws of the land.” He also said: “The law does not explicitly stipulate that being a Baha’i is a crime, to leave those of us who enforce the laws room for appeasement in our dealings with Baha’is. But this does not mean that being a Baha’i is not a crime.”
After the interrogation, the agents took Moin Mohammadi in handcuffs to his father’s workplace in the industrial town of Ishkaz, where they entered without notice. After the search and confiscation of the attendance records, invoices, hard drives and the DVR of the security cameras, they left the place and delivered the accused to the Intelligence office.
Immediately upon arrival at the Intelligence office, the accused was subjected to interrogation, In the first interrogation session he said he would refuse to answer questions as long as he was blindfolded and facing a wall. The interrogation finally began on the fifth day, and at its conclusion, the accused made his first telephone contact with his family since his arrest.
According to Moin Mohammadi, the interrogations were regarding his Tweets tied to the hashtag #life_under_discrimination, as well as some items he had sent to his friends via WhatsApp and Telegram.
After a week, Moin Mohammadi was transferred from the Intelligence Office detention center to Ward 10 of Yazd prison. This ward is for prisoners whose cases are still in the investigation phase, and the agent in charge of the case denied the accused any access to the outside. This ward is considered a punitive segment. After a few days, with the interrogator’s approval, Moin was transferred from Ward 10 to Ward 9, which is for political and ideological prisoners in Yazd. There are no signs or marks identifying this ward, so most of the prisoners in Yazd prison are unaware of its existence. Compared to the other wards, it is cleaner and more tidy. The facilities are cleaned and the ward is swept daily. The inmates in Ward 9 have their own separate time outdoors. This ward does not have a large population; at the time of Moin Mohammadi’s arrest, there were 18 prisoners there. The prison authorities treat the inmates in this ward well and cordially. The prisoners in this ward are not allowed to leave and access other wards, but out of respect, the authorities in most cases allow the inmates to leave their rooms.
On March 20, 2019, Moin Mohammadi was taken under guard from prison to Branch 1 of the Yazd Revolutionary Court. The court was presided over by Judge Mohammad Reza Dashtipour, and Mohammadi was tried for the charge of “membership in anti-regime groups” and “propaganda against the regime”. The accused was not asked any questions during the court session, and the defense attorney’s arguments were received in writing. The judge adjourned the court session after 20 minutes, and the accused was transferred back to prison.
On the first day after the Naw-Ruz (New Year) holidays, on March 25, the verdict against Moin Mohammadi was communicated to his attorney. For the charge of membership in anti-regime groups (membership in the Baha’i community), Mohammadi received the maximum sentence of five years in prison. For the charge of propaganda against the regime (teaching the Baha’i Faith) he also received the maximum sentence of one year in prison. He was sentenced to a total of six years in prison.
He says: “After three months, I was released on bail. My extended temporary detention was illegal. My attorney has not seen any ruling or letter in my file leading to the extension of my detention beyond the first month. On the other hand, the accused may not be detained beyond the minimum prison sentence stipulated by law for the particular crime. The minimum sentence for me, based on propaganda against the regime, is three months. Therefore, there was no legal basis for keeping me in prison for more than three months.”
On June 18 of this year, the appeals court convened in Branch 11 of the Yazd Province Appellate Court, presided over by Judge Mahmoud Islami. During this proceeding, the judge in the case explicitly told the accused that Baha’is in Iran are not entitled to any rights and should not pursue their civil rights. “The Baha’i Faith, in our view, is not a religion or a belief. It is an espionage organization, and all Baha’is are spies.”
Approximately 20 days later, the appeals court’s ruling was communicated, that in accordance with the inquest, since Moin Mohammadi was born in a Baha’i family, and his was not a “membership”, he was acquitted of the charge of “membership” in anti-regime groups. But the court upheld the sentence of one year in prison on the charge of propaganda against the regime. Based on this ruling, he is permitted to serve his sentence under the supervision of the electronic monitoring device in the vicinity of the city of Yazd and on route to Ishkaz.
Moin Mohammadi is also an environmental activist. In response to the question of whether his arrest was related to his environmental activism he said: “My arrest and sentencing was strictly for being a Baha’i, and there are no references to environmental activism in the ruling. Even the interrogator in the case, in his first session told me: “You are interested in the nature, mountains and caves. You should pursue those interests, not teaching the Faith.” I am an environmental activist, and still work for the health and well-being of my environment. Even in the Intelligence Office detention center, I discussed rumors about treasure hunts in a cave near Yazd with the interrogator in my case, because this cave is being destroyed and is in danger of collapsing due to activities of an influential group in the name of mining. I am still pursuing this to prevent the demolition operations. This cave is a part of our national heritage and belongs to all the people of Iran!”