Iranian Activist Receives Six-Month Prison Sentence for Facebook Posts

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The civil rights activist Esmail Ahmadi-Ragheb has been sentenced to six months in prison for “propaganda against the state” by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Shahriar, Tehran Province, for posting content on social media that was critical of government policy.

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Ahmadi-Ragheb said that his comments and photos on Facebook were used as evidence for the anti-state propaganda charge.

“One of the things I had mentioned a lot in my Facebook posts was the term ’religious dictatorship.’ That was taken as evidence, so was my participation in a rally in support of [human rights lawyer] Nasrin Sotoudeh in front of the Bar Association as well as my meeting with Sattar Beheshti’s [a blogger murdered by his interrogators in prison] mother and my participation in gatherings in support of political prisoners. They told me all these activities were illegal,” he said.

Ahmadi-Ragheb, known by his nickname of Zartosht, said he will appeal the sentence but must also appear in another trial on March 8, 2016 at Branch 1044 of the Revolutionary Court to defend himself against the charge of “disturbing public order.”

“In July 2015, I received a summons from the Security Police in Shahriar that said I should go to their office based on a judicial order to answer some questions. But there was no judicial order attached to the summons. So I didn’t go. A few days later, while I was at a protest rally in Vanak Square [in Tehran], several security agents went to my house and searched my belongings. My children were home at the time and the agents scared them during their search,” he told the Campaign.

Ahmadi-Ragheb added: “The following day, I went to the Security Police station to ask why my house had been searched. They sent me to the Revolutionary Court in Shahriar where I was asked a few questions. I was then charged with propaganda against the state. I submitted a shop [operation] permit as bond and I was released. I was sent a summons to appear in court on February 16.”

He said he would appeal his six-month prison sentence within the 20-day deadline.

Ahmadi-Ragheb was also arrested by the police on November 23, 2015 at a rally in support of political prisoners in front of the Dena Tire Company in Vanak Square in Tehran, along with three other men and 10 women. He was released 14 days later.

“At the detention center they asked us a few questions and then we were transferred to Evin Prison and we were interrogated there as well. We were charged with disturbing public order and sent to Ward 8. The women were transferred to Gharchak Prison. I was released on December 7 and now I have to go to court for this charge on March 8,” he said.

Ahmadi-Ragheb lost his municipal job after being released from detention and is seeking reemployment to support his two children.

“I have been a municipal worker with 14 years of experience. But when I was released from detention, they fired me. I lodged a complaint and fortunately the Labor Department ruled I should go back to work but the municipality has still not accepted the ruling. I complained again, and again the Labor Department ruled in my favor. I will go back to work soon and I hope there will not be any more problems,” he said.

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