Islamic Republic of Iran Must Free Hossein Ronaghi Maleki and Navid Khanjani and STOP Persecuting Earthquake Relief Workers!
- Ahmed Shaheed, UN, UNHCHR, State Department, EU, Navi Pillay, Ban Ki-Moon, European Parliament
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 29, 2012
A further number of relief workers who were arrested while helping victims of the recent earthquake in Iran's East Azerbaijan province have been released on bail. Among these are: Behrouz Alavi, Esmaeil Salmanpour, Esmaeil Salmanpour, Hamidreza Mosayebian and Houman Taheri. We are seeking confirmation of the total number of volunteer relief workers still imprisoned, in addition to Hossein Ronaghi Maleki and Navid Khanjani.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 12, 2012:
Hossein Ronaghi, blogger and human rights activist who was among the detained earthquake aid volunteers, is suffering from dangerous internal bleeding of his kidneys. Hossein is being held in a facility in Eastern Azerbaijan and despite his dangerous condition, his release and medical care have been denied.
Hossein Ronaghi who suffers from a severe kidney ailment and has undergone several surgeries, required hospitalization in the past days to receive emergency care for his deteriorating heath. Judicial authorities and security agents in charge have refused to acknowledge Hossein’s medical needs despite the fact that his life his in danger as a result of severe internal bleeding in his kidneys.
On August 22, 2012 Hossein Ronaghi was detained along with his father and brother, Ahmad and Hasan Ronagi Maleki, along with 33 other volunteers and social activists who had gone to the aid of earthquake victims in the province of Azerbaijan. The volunteers were violently detained at their campsite at Sarande by security agents. Some of the volunteers [including Hossein's father Ahmad and brother Hasan] have since been released on bail but judicial authorities have not disclosed any information regarding a possibility of release for Hossein Ronaghi and a number of other detainees.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 5, 2012:
Navid Khanjani, who was among those arrested in Azerbaijan 2 weeks ago while helping earthquake victims, has been transferred to Rajai Shahr prison, near Tehran. He spent the previous day in Evin prison’s Ward 2-A, which is under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Navid Khanjani was arrested in March 2010 and spent about 2 months in prison before being released on bail. Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court handed down a 12-year prison sentence, which was later upheld by the appellate court.Government-affiliated media have published several negative articles about the activities of Baha’i citizens recently, using Navid Khanjani as an example.
Some of the volunteers arrested while helping earthquake victims have been released on bail but most are still being held: there is no news of their condition. Some of them are being held at Evin prison.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2, 2012:
HOSSEIN RONAGHI MALEKI HAS CONTACTED HIS FAMILY BY PHONE, INFORMING THEM THAT HE IS IN POOR PHYSICAL CONDITION AS A RESULT OF EXTREME BLEEDING OF THE KIDNEYS.
On August 22, 2012, security forces of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran arrested 35 nongovernmental volutneer earthquake relief workers in the East Azerbaijan province. They violently raided relief camps containing supplies for victims of the recent earthquakes in the region. According to close sources, the activists demanded to see the security forces’ warrant and attempted to stand in the way of them confiscating the supplies.
The following are the known names of activists arrested for helping Iran’s earthquake victims: Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, Navid Khanjani, Vahed Kholoosi, Shayan Vahdati, Shima Ghousheh, Misagh Afshar, Vahid Rouhani, Maziar Esmaeilpour, Morteza Esmaeilpour, Hamid Reza Mossayebian, Ali Mohammadi, Mohsen Saemi, Masoud Vafabakhsh, Houman Taheri, Danial Hosseini, Nafiseh Shahidfar, Bahram Shojaie, Mohammad Arjmandi Rad, Esmael Salmanpour, Baghban Bashi, Narges Kheirollahi, Mehdi Salehi, Behrouz Alavi, Milad Panahipour, Sepehrdad Saheban, Esmael Rafati, Amir Ronaghi, Hassan Ronaghi, Jafar Gholami, Kiana Karimpour, Farnaz Ahmadzadeh, Artemiz Varzandeh, Mehrnaz Ahmadzadeh, Amin Ronaghi, Reyhaneh Hesami, Ali Taghdiri, and Sadegh Rezaie Giglu.
Most of the them were subsequently released. However, several remain in custody. Those remaining in custody were transferred from the quarantine ward at Tabriz prison to the intelligence ministry where according to a source close to one of the detainees they were subjected to interrogation for a period of five days.
Prominent among them are blogger and furloughed prisoner of conscience Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, and Navid Khanjani, a human rights activist and student of Baha’i faith who was out of jail pending an appeal against his 12-year prison sentence.
There are rising concerns over Hossein Ronaghi Maleki's deteriorating physical condition given that the judicial and intelligence authorities have denied Ronaghi Maleki access to any medication and medical treatment (see below for details of the extremely perilous state of his health due to acute kidney failure).
Hossein's father Ahmad Ronaghi Maleki was also arrested, and subsequently suffered a minor heart attack and was taken to the hospital. He has since been released.
Navid Khanjani, a human rights activist and student of Baha’i faith who was out of jail pending an appeal against his 12-year prison sentence.
Hossein and Navid are locked up in Ward 1 of Tabriz Prison, where they declared a dry hunger strike on Saturday, August 25. They were officially charged with "handing out contaminated goods".
The following is background information on these two brave sons of Iran:
HOSSEIN RONAGHI MALEKI
Hossein Ronaghi Maleki is a 25year old blogger who used the name Babak Khorramdin for his blogs. He was also involved in writing computer programs and used his expertise in bypassing filters to combat the censorship environment in Iran’s cyberspace. He was born in the city of Tabriz in Iran and speaks th…e Azari language.
Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki was arrested on December 13, 2009. Hossein endured relentless intimidation and abuse in an attempt to coerce him into making a confession during the televised trials.
On October 4, 2010, after 10 months of temporary detention in Ward 2A of Evin prison, holding this human rights activist under an unknown condition, finally his verdict was issued. Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court issued a sentence of 15years in prison. Hossein was given the ruling by the head officer of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court, who used threats to force Hossein into signing the verdict. When he refused to sign the verdict, the head of the office and his officers savagely attacked and beat Hossein. So on October 7, 2010, Hossein went on his third hunger strike in protest of the brutal assault against him.
On November 20, 2010, Hossein’s file went to the appeal court despite the protests of his lawyers. On December 1, 2010, the 15year sentence for Hossein Maleki was upheld by branch 54 of the appeal court. The charges announced against him in court were “membership in Iran Proxy Network” and “insulting the leadership and insulting the president.”
At the time the devastating earthquakes struck, Hossein was on medical furlough from Evin Prison after a prolonged hungerstrike to demand medical treatment for his failing kidneys. Despite the precarious situation of both his health and his tenuous "freedom", Hossein Ronaghi was one of the true sons and daughters of Iran who did not hesitate to rush to the scene of the earthquakes to begin immediate relief efforts.
Hossein Ronaghi Maleki had just undergone a 7th kidney operation and a number of other detainees are said to have launched a dry hunger strike, an act that exasperated Ronaghi Maleki's physical condition and led to further bleeding of his kidneys.
On December 20, 2010, Navid Khanjani, a human rights activist and student of Baha’i faith banned from higher education was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined by Judge Pirabbasi of branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court.
Navid Khanjani was charged with “Acting against national security”, “Propaganda against the regime”, “Disturbing public order”, “Libel”, “Founding the Baha’i Education Rights Committee”, and “Membership in [two human rights organizations], the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) and Human Rights Activists (HRA)”.
While awaiting appeal of his sentence, Navid has been out of prison on bail.
His sentence of 12 years and fine was upheld by the appeals court on August 22, 2012....And then he was arrested while volunteering to assist earthquake victims.
The mass arrest of Iranian volunteer (non-regime) relief workers must be viewed against the backdrop of the regime's dismal record in response to the earthquakes.
As Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, in a joint statement with Karim Lahidji (vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights ) observed:
"Two weeks since the earthquake in the Azerbaijan province of Iran, the authorities of the Islamic Republic are still pursuing a policy of silence and secrecy. They have not published the real figures of the casualties, the demolished villages and residential units or the financial damages. Furthermore, they have failed to provide adequate basic aid to the people. To make matters worse, by despatching the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) to the area, they have established a reign of fear and intimidation by arresting scores of civic activists and volunteer relief workers and trying to disrupt the work of the people who are endeavouring to help our quake-struck compatriots."
The International Federation for Human Rights provides further details:
"Ever since the earthquake, the authorities have tried to impose restrictions on popular and non-governmental aid to the victims and have failed to supply adequate aid to them. Furthermore, by deploying the IRGC and confiscating the privately collected supplies, they have tried to disrupt the flow of aid to the earthquake victims. The government has blocked bank accounts set up by non-governmental groups to aid the victims. Some groups of social workers specialised in helping children as well as psychologists who had travelled to the area to help the people have been forced to leave in the face of threats by the security and intelligence departments of the provincial capital Tabriz and the city of Ahar. The IRGC forces have been searching the trucks and other vehicles on the roads and partially confiscating private supplies donated by the people.
The earthquake victims are in pressing need for food, medicine, health, medical and psychiatric assistance. Shortage of medical staff and nurses has increased the likelihood of the spread of infectious diseases including cholera. People in the earthquake-struck regions have complained of improper distribution of food by the IRGC, which has reportedly been storing the aid received. Even representatives of the state Red Crescent Organisation have been facing impediments to their work caused by the IRGC. There have been reports of favouritism displayed by government agents in distributing aid to some families....Civic activists and other compatriots have rushed to aid the earthquake victims. However, the authorities are trying to monopolise all contact with the victims and do not shy away from deploying security and military forces to achieve their goal."
We are further appalled by the Islamic Republic regime's extremely petty and irresponsible persecution and hindrance of other Iranian citizens who, as earthquake relief volunteers, have bravely and selflessly rushed to fill the breach left by government incompetence in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Iran.
This can only be viewed as the latest example of the Islamic Republic's all-out war against Iran's nascent civil society.
Therefore, we demand that the representatives of the international community--AND ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO HAVE CHOSEN T0 ATTEND THE NAM SUMMIT IN TEHRAN--speak out forcefully and bring all possible pressure to bear upon the Islamic Republic regime in Iran to release Hossein and Navid and to cease and desist with their incredibly perverse campaign of persecuting independent Iranian relief workers and hindering their work.