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Iranian Journalist and Political Activist Detained For Criticizing Iran’s Judiciary

Monday 16 July 2018

Well-known journalist and political activist Hengameh Shahidi was arrested upon leaving a hospital in Iran’s Kish Island after strongly criticizing state policies on social media and in interviews with foreign media.

“My mother Ms. Hengameh Shahidi was arrested this morning by the security establishment and taken to jail after she was discharged from a hospital where she was treated for a heart attack that she suffered a few days earlier,” her daughter Parmis Taherian tweeted on June 26, 2018.

Shahidi was once a political advisor to former presidential candidate and Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under extrajudicial house arrest for more than seven years. She has been repeatedly detained for speaking out against political oppression in Iran, particularly the judiciary’s politically motivated sentencing of journalists, activists and dissidents.

“She had been on the run for several months,” said Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi at a press conference on June 26.

“I watched her on social networks posting blatant insults against the judiciary and its officials every day and instead of surrendering herself, she posted a lot of criminal tweets,” he added.

Dowlatabadi continued: “She was arrested today because she was claiming that she would not turn herself in until the judiciary’s officials are changed… There is a serious case against her in the judiciary and we hope it will be quickly sent to court.”

Shahidi, 43, was previously detained for five months in 2017 after predicting in an open letter that she would be arrested ahead of that year’s presidential election. At the time she was accused of collaborating with Amad News, a Telegram app channel operated by Iranians living outside the country.

Shahidi was a political adviser to Karroubi during his 2009 presidential campaign. Since February 2011, Karroubi and fellow opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard have been under house arrest for leading Iran’s 2009 protests that came to be known as the Green Movement.

Shahidi worked as journalist for the Norooz newspaper published by the reformist Etemad Melli (National Trust) Party until her arrest in June 2009, when she was sentenced to six years in prison for the charges of “propagating against the regime,” “acting against national security” and “insulting the president.” She was granted conditional release in June 2012 on medical grounds.

On May 3, 2018, Shahidi posted a copy of a summons from Branch 2 of the Culture and Media Court on her Twitter account. The summons indicated that she had been charged with “insulting the judiciary chief” for several letters she had written condemning her prolonged detention between March and August 2017 in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

In an open letter to Larijani on February 1, 2018, Shahidi wrote: “Was it right to extend my temporary detention in solitary confinement for six months based on a lie? Was it not deplorable to set bail at 200 million tomans (about $63,000 USD at the time) for an innocent and defenseless woman?”

“The human rights community should pay attention to the fact that the judicial authorities succeeded in forcing me to confess to a crime I did not commit without any evidence under torture,” she added.

In an June 24 interview with Kayhan, an opposition-run news site based in London, Shahidi also criticized reformists for not speaking out against political oppression, adding that her arrest in 2017 was carried out by the Intelligence Ministry, which operates under centrist President Hassan Rouhani.

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