By Mahnaz Malekuti, Rooz Online
Following the announcement by Mahmoud Jaafari Dolatabadi, Iran's general and revolutionary attorney general, that 130 security prisoners would be released through an amnesty granted by the supreme leader of the Islamic republic on Eid Fitr celebrations coming at the end of the month-long fasting month of Ramadan, twelve political prisoners from Evin's notorious Ward 350 were released. According to Kalame website, political prisoners Alireza Kia, Hamzeh Karami, Hamid Izadyari, Massume Fardis, Ramin Javoshi, Arash Righi, Ali Malihi, Ghasem Shole Saadi, Ismail Sahabe, Koorosh Kohkan, Hamid Moghadasi, Hossein Sabet, Amir Bahmani and Rahman Boozari were sent home from Evin prison. In the last hours of Tuesday, news reports also spoke of the release of Farshad Ghorbanpour, Sadaf Sabetian, Mojgan Mohammadian, Shamim Zeinolabedini, Ashraf Alikhani, Masumeh Yaari, Mitra Ali, Nazanin Khosravani, Ali Haji Molahaji, Hamid Moghadas, Hossein Sabet, Ali Jamali, Mohsen Javadi Afzali, Arash Rahaimehr, Ali Akhavan, Bardia Azarnia, Amir Maghamifar, Shahab Dehghan and Sarang Etehadidasht. Reports indicated that the release of prisoners continued as this piece went into press and many families awaited to join with their loved ones from prison.
Some of the released political prisoners with their family and friends
Hamzeh Karami, a member of Mir-Hossein Mousavi's presidential election committee who had been arrested in the so-called Jomhuriat presidential site and Mehdi Hashemi case and had been sentenced to eleven years of prison. Ghasem Sholesaadi was in prison since 2010 on charges of writing insulting remarks about the supreme leader of the Islamic republic. Ali Malihi was a member of the Advar Tahkim Vahdat university student alumni organization who was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to four years of prison. Ismail Sahabe was a member of the Jebhe Mosharekat (reformist Participation Front) was also arrested in 2010 for organizing a prayer session and continues to remain behind bars. Rahman Boozari is a journalist and transalter who was sentenced to 2 years in prison in 2011.
According to Tehran's attorney general, the "amnesty granted to these individuals was based on requests for amnesty and also the renouncement of the individuals of the crimes they had committed." He continued, "90 sentenced prisoners benefited from the amnesty provided by the supreme leader and their sentences will be reduced and they will be released."
As announced by Jafar Dolatabadi, the sentences of 40 individuals from this group will be reduced through the amnesty, "which includes a number of security related prisoners."
This is not the first time that the judiciary of the Islamic republic released prisoners on various religious or political occasions such religious celebrations and events, and the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution that toppled Iran's 2500-year monarchy in 1979. The practice has for years been such that on the recommendation of the Amnesty Committee, the head of the judiciary prepares a list of prisoners to benefit from an amnesty and sends it to the office of the supreme leader, who in turns agrees to the release of some or all of them.
From the perspective of judiciary officials of the Islamic regime however, there are no political prisoners in the country. They call anyone who manifests opposition to the regime to be "security suspects." In the words of Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, "the term political crime has not yet been defined, so it is not right to call these individuals political prisoners. Individuals who were arrested following the sedition of 2009 have been sentenced for different crimes. Those individuals who announce their repentance will be recommended for release, prison leave, condition release etc. Basically, these individuals have submitted requests for release from prison."
In a letter to the supreme leader, Sadegh Larijani in 2010 had provided a list of prisoners to be released. But the statement that was issued with the news report of the letter clarified that individuals who had been detained on charges of activities against internal or external state security were not on the list.
From the group that were released from prison last year because of a similar amnesty, the names of individuals such as Ehsan Abde Yabrizi, Laleh Hassanpour, Zahra Ejbari, Keivan Farzin, Amir Aslani, Soorena Hashemi, Mohsen Ghamin, MOhammadpour Abdollah, Arsalan Abdi, Nazanin Hassania, Soosan tabianian, Akram Heydarian, Sama Shamloo, Fateme Darvish, Ali Behzadiannejad, Hamid-Reza Nojoomi, Abolfazl Ghasemi, Koorosh Ghasemi, Artin Ghazanfari, Gholam-Reza Azadi, Meysam Roodaki, Amir-Hossein Ghanbari, Omid Sharifidana, Behnam Ansari, Roohollah Mirzakhani, Masoud Yazdchi, Mohsen Mokhtari and Sajad Moradi were on the amnesty request list most of whom with the exception of just a few were unfamiliar individuals. The list raised the question about the occasion and details of their arrest. It was subsequently established that these individuals were prisoners whose terms were about to end soon and who had spent more than half of their sentenced prison terms.
According to various reports, individuals who had been released belonged to various organization affiliated to monarchists, Mojahedin Khalq, and other groups.
But despite the various announcement on the release of political prisoners, no prominent reform or media personalities who had been arrested in connection with the 2009 disputed elections and sentenced to long prison terms were among those who were released or were about to go home.
According to Reporters Without Borders, following the disputed 2009 presidential elections in Iran, more than a hundred journalists and reporters were detained by the regime and put behind bars. In another report, the watchdog asserts that with 42 reporters behind bars, the Islamic republic was the "largest prison for journalists in the world." Some of the better known journalists have in recent years received international awards for their professional work, and have been awarded in abstentia because of their detention.
Release of political prisoners has been a key demand of the dissidents of the Islamic republic and even some reform-minded political figures. For example Hashemi Rafsanjani who heads the powerful State Expediency Council, and until last year was also the head of the Assembly of Experts on Leadership, publicly announced the "release of prisoners" a condition necessary for the country to move beyond the crisis it faced in 2009.
Reform leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karoubi also have issued separate statements calling for the release of prisoners who had been detained in connection and after the disputed 2009 presidential election. They themselves were put under house arrest in 2010 where they remain till today. Former reform president Mohammad Khatami also has called for the release of political prisoners as the condition for reformers to return to official political participation such as general elections.
Despite the news about the release of a number of political prisoners from Iranian prisons, the state of prisoners behind bars continues to be harsh and many basic rights of prisoners are denied to the detainees. For example, Fateme Karoubi, the wife of Mehdi Karoubi has announced a ban on seeing her husband who is officially not been recognized to be under house arrest. Prison officials regularly deny prison leaves to the post election detainees and continue to keep many of them in the harshest prison wards with minimum rights. Some prisoners from that period have even seen their sentences increased and Mahsa Amrabadi, a journalist and the wife of Massoud Bastani is an example of this on charges of participating in a gathering in 2009.
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