Iran: Tortured filmmaker and musicians face imminent arrest amid crackdown on artists
Musicians and filmmakers around the world are being asked to join forces with Amnesty International activists to call on the Iranian authorities to quash the torture-tainted convictions of filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, his brother Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, both musicians, ahead of Music Freedom Day on Thursday.
The three men are at risk of imminent arrest after an appeal court upheld their prison sentences for ludicrous charges related to their artistic work, Amnesty International warned today amid an ongoing crackdown on artists and freedom of expression in Iran.
“These sentences lay bare the absurdity of Iran’s criminal justice system, which brands individuals as criminals merely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression through making music and films. These young men should never have been arrested, let alone brought to trial,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
“These convictions flagrantly flout Iran’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression. If the sentences are ultimately carried out, these individuals will be prisoners of conscience.”
The artists had been sentenced to six years in prison after a three-minute trial before a Revolutionary Court in April 2015, which convicted them of “insulting Islamic sanctities”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “illegal audio-visual activities”.
The charges arose from their artistic work, including a feature film by Hossein Rajabian dealing with women’s rights to divorce in Iran, and Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi’s distribution of unlicensed music by Iranian singers from outside the country, some of whose lyrics and messages are political or cover taboo subjects.
The men have been out on bail since December 2013. Prior to that, they were held for two months in solitary confinement, where they have said they were subjected to beatings and electric shocks to make video “confessions”.
Despite their complaints of torture and other ill-treatment, the appeal court has ruled that they must serve three years of their six-year prison sentence and suspended the remaining three years for a period of five years, conditioned on their “good behaviour”. No investigation is known to have been ordered into the torture allegations.
The case is now before the Office for the Implementation of Sentences, which means they can be arrested and imprisoned at any time.
During their arrest on 5 October 2013, Hossein Rajabian, Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi were tasered and blindfolded by the security forces; they were then held for 18 days in a secret detention facility where they said they were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. They were subsequently transferred to solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin prison, where they were held for two months in Section 2A of the prison which is run by the Revolutionary Guards.
None of them had access to a lawyer at any point in their arrest, detention, trial and appeal.
“Apart from demonstrating the authorities’ utter contempt for freedom of expression, the appalling treatment of these men shows how far removed the notion of justice is from Iran’s criminal justice system, which is steeped in torture and violations of due process,” said Said Boumedouha.
These latest cases come amid an intensified crackdown on artists, musicians and filmmakers in Iran. Last month, an appeal court ruled that Iranian film-maker Keywan Karimi must serve one year of his six-year in prison imposed for “insulting Islamic sanctities” and suspended the remaining five years, conditioned on his “good behaviour”. The court also upheld the flogging sentence of 233 lashes imposed for having “illicit relations” through shaking hands and “spending time under one roof with a woman who had not covered her face and neck.”
In October 2015, poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi were sentenced to eleven and a half and nine years in prison, respectively, for charges including “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “spreading propaganda against the system”. They were also sentenced to 99 lashes each for “having illicit relations”. The poets have since fled the country.
The annual global Music Freedom Day supports persecuted and imprisoned musicians who face criminal charges solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression through their music.
Amnesty International is using this day to highlight the case of Hossein Rajabian, Mehdi Rajabian, and Yousef Emadi as the latest example in the Iranian authorities’ orchestrated crackdown on artists, musicians, filmmakers and poets.
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