Amnesty International | October 24
Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities not to imprison a prominent human rights defender and journalist sentenced to a total of seven years in prison, including six for recording an interview with a reformist cleric.
Emadeddin Baghi, the head of the now-banned Association for the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights (ADPR), who had been released on bail in June after six months’ detention, was told on Wednesday of his conviction for “propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding with the aim of harming national security” while attending a trial session for another case.
The charges were brought against him over a 2008 TV interview with the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, broadcast by BBC Persian in December 2009 following the cleric’s death.
However, when interrogated following his arrest in December 2009, Baghi was asked about his views on the death penalty; his connections to human rights groups including Amnesty International and his NGO work. The interview with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was scarcely mentioned, suggesting he had really been arrested for his human rights work.
Emadeddin Baghi had already been sentenced in July 2010 to one year’s imprisonment and to a five-year ban on any media or NGO work, in connection with his establishment of the ADPR in 2003.
The award-winning human rights defender remains free but faces imprisonment if his appeals against his convictions fail.
“This is yet another example of the Iranian authorities persecuting Emadeddin Baghi, an activist who has been repeatedly imprisoned for his work,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
“His plight is emblematic of the continuing government crackdown on activists in Iran, where those who speak out against human rights violations face intimidation, arrest or worse.”
If made to serve these sentences, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience.