Continued Detention and Uncertainty in Case of Baha’i Citizen Sanaz Tafzali

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Translation by Iran Press Watch

Ms. Sanaz Tafzali (Ruhi), a 45-year-old Baha’i citizen, married mother of two, has been detained in Mashhad’s Vakil Abad prison for three months without specific charges.

As of March 2, 2023, Ms. Tafzali had been detained for 90 days. Two months ago the court agreed to her bail. However, after posting one of the heaviest property bonds in past years, equivalent to ten billion tomans, Ms. Tafzali remains in custody and authorities have refused to release her. The bail documents remain in the custody of the court.

From the very first days of the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, the Baha’is of Iran have faced harassment and severe oppression from the Islamic Regime.  Executions, assassinations, arrests, assaults, destruction of houses and graves, loss of employment, prevention of professional, artistic, or sports advancement, prohibition of leaving the country, and deprivation of the right to education, are examples of continuing oppression of Baha’i Citizens by the Regime.

In recent months, in the wake of public protests, dozens of Baha’i citizens have been arrested, along with their fellow countrymen, by Iranian government security agents. Following the government’s announcement in February of general amnesty, several Baha’is were released, but as in the case of Ms. Tafzali, others still remain in detention.

What do we know about Ms. Sanaz Tafzali?

Ms. Tafzali was born in 1978 in Tehran. She was a child of five or six years old when her mother was arrested, resulting in her living for a time without her mother, in the care of her father.

After living in Tehran for a few years, Ms. Tafzali’s family moved to Mashhad where she continued her studies until obtaining her diploma. But like other young Baha’is, she was denied entry to university based solely on her religion.

Ms. Sanaz Tafzali married “Babak Ruhi” in Mashhad. Babak Ruhi is one of the Bahá’ís of Bojnoord who moved to Mashhad in the late sixties. after the execution of his uncle, Manouchehr Ruhi, by death squad in in the City of Bojnoord in 1985. Mr. Ruhi had been convicted on charges of following the Baha’i religion. In 2010, Babak Ruhi himself was sentenced to 3 years in prison, with a suspended sentence of 5 years, on charges of following the Baha’i religion.

Ms. Tafzali’s two brothers have been arrested several times and detained on charges such as propaganda against the regime and actions against national security due to their adherence Baha’i Faith. Shayan Tafzali and his wife, Nika Pakzadan, each served a one-year prison sentence in Vakil Abad prison. Ms. Tafzali’s other brother served a one-year prison sentence and a five-year suspended prison sentence.

Ms. Tafzali has been arrested a total of three times. She was first arrested in 2012 by the Mashhad Intelligence Department. She was sentenced by the court to six months in prison on the charge of propaganda against the regime. Ms. Tafzali served her sentence in Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad in 2013.

The Sanaz Tafzali‘s Current Arrest

On Tuesday, November 22, 2022, Ms. Tafzali was driving her car through the city, when she was stopped and detained by the agents of the Mashhad Intelligence Department. Agents subsequently raided Ms. Tafzali’s home, and confiscated some of her and her family’s personal belongings such as laptops, mobile phones and books.

Arrest of Sanaz Tafzali, Mashhad Intelligence Department

Following her arrest, Ms. Tafzali was detained and interrogated for 37 days in solitary confinement at the Mashhad Intelligence Department. During that period a number of her acquaintances and relatives, including her husband and two sons, were summoned to the Intelligence Department for questioning and released after interrogation. When the interrogations concluded, Ms. Tafzali was transferred from the Intelligence Department to Vakil Abad Prison in Mashhad.

Ms. Tafzali ‘s case is being investigated by Branch 903 of the Mashhad Revolution Prosecutor’s Office. Three months have passed since the arrest of Ms. Tafzali, and still the family does not have any detailed information about charges or the reason for her arrest, other than the investigator’s statement that he has implicitly accused her of propaganda against the regime.

Heavy Bail Equivalent to Ten Billion Tomans

It is worth noting the unusually heavy bail assigned to Ms. Tafzali, a property bond equivalent to ten billion tomans. This bond was assigned by the investigator of her case, once she was transferred to Vakil Abad prison.  According to the law, the amount that the court sets for bail must be proportional to the type of crime committed. Ms. Tafzali has been accused of propagandizing against the regime, which is a common charge brought against Baha’is. However, the amount of bail set in this case is unusually high, even for that charge. According to Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, anyone who engages in propaganda activities against the system in any way will be sentenced to imprisonment from three months to one year.

After posting bail, Ms. Tafzali’s family submitted the relevant documents to the prosecutor’s office.  The prosecutor’s office then sends the release for Ms. Tafzali to the prison, when her family goes to the prison to secure her release, they learn that the investigator has written another letter to the prison and canceled her release. According to the law, upon canceling the release of the accused, the bail is returned to the bailor, but despite the fact that Ms. Tafzali was not released, the real estate documents used to secure bail have not been returned to the family.

Condition of Sanaz Tafzali

Ms. Tafzali has now been in temporary detention for three months. According to the investigator of the case, her detention order has been extended once every ten days.

One of the Ms. Tafzali’s relatives told Iranwire: “It is not clear why, after the interrogation phase and the depositing of bail, her arrest warrants are successively extended?” If the detention order was extended to clear up the ambiguity in the case, then hasn’t the investigator met with Ms. Tafzali in the last 50 days after her transfer to Vakil Abad prison to resolve the said problem?”

Ms. Tafzali remains detained in Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad.


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