Translation by Iran Press Watch
On Saturday, September 21, 2019, in the office of the Karaj revolutionary court,
Peyman Dameshghi received his sentence to one year in prison for the charge of “propaganda against the regime by promoting the Baha’i Faith”. The court session for this Baha’i citizen had been going on for less than 10 minutes on Wednesday, September 18 in the general and revolutionary court of Karaj. A person close to this Baha’i citizen told Iranwire that Peyman does not accept this charge, and that he still does not know what evidence was used to convict him. He has not so far shared this news, because still he does not believe he committed any crime or that a court would convict him in a court proceeding of only a few minutes.
In February, Peyman Dameshghi received a written summons from the security police in Karaj. After his appearance in the security police office, his mobile phone was confiscated, and he was interrogated for about half an hour. He was told during the interrogation: “you had written a piece on the Internet entitled “Justice”, and since as a Baha’i you wrote something with this title in the virtual sites, you must have intended to indirectly promote the Baha’i Faith, and this is a crime.” Peyman asked the interrogators to produce the piece, since he did not remember doing any such thing, but they refused to do so.
In March 2019, Peyman was summoned to Branch 2 of the Karaj revolutionary court for indictment. At the start of the proceeding, the interrogator told him: “if you are indicted, you must go to jail right now, so we will not indict you so you can produce a collateral.” The judge then set bail for him at 50 million Tumans ($11,875), and the indictment was then postponed due to Peyman’s inability to produce the collateral. Two days later, a friend of Peyman’s put his business license as collateral and the indictment proceeding convened. The proceeding lasted only a few minutes, and the judge asked him twice in writing whether he had promoted the Baha’i Faith. In response he wrote that he had never invited anyone to join the Baha’i Faith.
An individual close to Peyman Dameshghi told Iranwire: “in a few minutes-long court proceeding in September, Peyman was sentenced to one year in prison for the charge of propaganda against the regime under the guise of promoting the Baha’i Faith. This charge is based on a post – not even an article – he had written on a webpage. The judge did not show him the post in question, but he issued the sentence based on it. They say since he is a Baha’i, he must have written the post on Justice against the Islamic Republic. Honesty, Peyman still doesn’t remember what post they are referring to, but since he is active and posts in different Telegram groups, it was probably one of his comments on the subject of Justice that led to his legal troubles.
Recently, a Baha’i citizen named Sima Behroozi was sentenced to three months in prison by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Yazd, presided over by Judge Dashtipoor. The sentence was issued in accordance with Article 499 of the Islamic Penal Code for the charge of “membership in an anti-regime group (Baha’i Faith). Based on the contents of the case and the defense by the accused, the court found his other charge of propaganda in favor of anti-regime groups inconclusive, and he was acquitted of that charge. On March 20, 2019, Sima Behroozi was summoned in writing to the Yazd security police office, and was interrogated for activity in Telegram groups. After some time, based on a case that was put together during her interrogation, she was summoned to Branch 4 of the Revolutionary Court of Yazd and indicted on the charges of “membership in an anti-regime group (Baha’i Faith) and “propaganda in favor of a group which is against the Islamic Republic regime (promoting the Baha’i Faith). A 250 Million Tuman ($59,375) bail was set for her temporary release. Since the defendant could not afford to provide the collateral, she was transferred to the Yazd central prison, but was released on bail two days later. On Tuesday, July 2, Sima Behroozi received an electronic summons from Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Yazd, which required her to appear in court on the first floor of the Yazd Court building on August 17 at noon. The text of the summons explicitly mentioned the charge against Sima Behroozi as membership in and promoting the Baha’i Faith. The court’s verdict was announced in September of this year, based on which Sima Behroozi was sentenced to three months in prison.
Sima Behroozi is not the first Baha’i in Yazd to face a legal challenge for the charge of activity in cyberspace. For several years now, the Baha’is of Yazd have faced prosecution for activities online and in cyberspace.
The first case of these challenges concerns Shamim Etehadi, a Baha’i youth from Yazd. In November 2012, this Baha’i citizen had recorded a film of the destruction of the Yazd Baha’i cemetery by Intelligence Ministry agents and uploaded it to the Manoto satellite network. Later on, Shamim also posted the film on Youtube. On March 16, 2013, this Baha’i youth, who had been deprived of his right to higher education, was arrested at his home in a raid by security agents. The preliminary court sentenced him to 7 years and 3 months in prison and 75 lashes on the charge of insulting a government agent, and a 40 Million Rials ($950) fine for having satellite equipment. As stated to Iranwire by a person close to him, based on the indictment, two years of his sentence was for sending the film to a satellite network abroad. In the appellate court, the preliminary sentence was changed to three years and three months in prison, a two-year ban on leaving the country, lashes and a fine. On June 7, 2016, after serving his sentence without even an hour of furlough, Shamim Etehadi was released from Yazd prison.
On the morning of June 29, 2014, two Baha’is were arrested at their homes by the Intelligence Ministry of Yazd province. The reason for their arrest was given as sharing information on the status of the Baha’is in Iran on the Internet, especially on Facebook. The detainees, Iraj Lohrasb and Tanaz Mohammadi, were sentenced to two years and one year in prison respectively, and were released from Yazd prison after serving their sentences.
The last case is Moin Mohammadi Dahij. In June of this year, this Baha’i resident of Yazd was sentenced by the appellate court of Yazd province to one year of house arrest with electronic surveillance, for the charge of “propaganda against the regime under the guise of promoting the Baha’i Faith on cyberspace”. The preliminary court’s verdict states that the activities of the accused are evident to the court from the texts of his tweets and because he has established the hashtag #Life-under-Discrimination. Moin has denied establishing the hashtag #Life-under-Discrimination, and told Iranwire that he has only written on this page about his and his family’s deprivation of their rights as Iranian Baha’is.