By Hossein Mohammadi, Rooz Online
While until a few months ago the deputy foreign minister of Iran, Hassan Ghashghai, and the minister of intelligence Mahmoud Alavi made positive public remarks about the possibility of the return of Iranian immigrants, the spokesman of the judiciary branch announced the prosecution of some of them, in absentia.
Iranian Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejhei (file photo)
Speaking to reporters, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejhei said, “A number of individuals who are suspects in the 2009 sedition events and had fled out of the country had been prosecuted in absentia in March and have been sentenced.” Sedition is the term Iranian officials use for the massive protests against the 2009 presidential elections.
According to Ejhei, “If these individuals or their attorneys cannot be reached, the judgments will be served differently and the legal channel will continue.”
These remarks conflict with what Hassan Ghashghai, the deputy foreign minister for consular affairs had repeatedly publicly said about the safe return of Iranian immigrants. Just last spring, he had said that president Rouhani had asked a number of government ministries, including those of intelligence and foreign affairs, to set up a committee to facilitate the return of Iranians to their home country.
It became apparent later that the committee that was formed for this purpose was led by the ministry of intelligence. According to Ghashghai, “The secretary of the committee in the ministry of intelligence held regular meetings at the ministry which had reached some good conclusions on this issue.”
After taking office, president Rouhani had said, “One of our treasures are Iranians living abroad. I call on the Majlis and the government to facilitate their return.”
When he was in New York City for the annual UN General Assembly session, he told a group of Iranians, “The government believes it is its duty to facilitate the travel of Iranians to their home country. It is the natural right of every Iranian to visit his place of birth. We do not have the right to deny this.”
At that time, Iran’s minister of intelligence Mahmoud Alavi also made positive remarks when he said, “We guarantee that any Iranian who has no violations will have no problems.” Later, Ghashghai said that a special email account had been set up so that Iranians living abroad could use to inquire about their status. According to him, “The atmosphere created by the country’s opposition, particularly those who call for the overthrow of the regime and foreign radio stations is that of fear and does not reflect reality. It is possible that a person who been living abroad for thirty years has no criminal record and has not engaged in any such activity. Such a person has no problem returning to Iran. If any person has real concerns about returning to the country he can inquire from us. We will ask the relevant authorities and they will tell us the real situation. We will not lie to individuals. If we do, then the reputation of the foreign ministry will be undermined.”
But despite these assurances and promises, Ejhei has a different view. Speaking about people who had left the country, he has said, “Individuals who have committed oppressive acts against people during the 2009 sedition will be legally pursued if they return to Iran. We do not ban individuals who have committed crimes from returning to Iran. If such a person returns, he will be arrested. A person who has committed a crime may be put on an exit ban list, banning him from leaving the country.”
Despite these remarks, some individuals who had returned to Iran after the last presidential elections have run into problems. Their passports have been confiscated making it impossible for them to return to their country of residence. Some await court hearings. Journalist Sarajedin Mirdamadi is such an example. He is banned from leaving Iran to France, his country of residence, while his wife and children are there. There have also been individuals who were taken to Evin prison immediately upon their return to Iran. The best known example of this is Kazem Barjeste, who was a member of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s presidential campaign in 2009. He had lived in Germany for a few years and was arrested and taken to Evin upon his return. Some students too have faced a similar predicament.
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