Thursday, August 18, 2011

POC: Ayatollah Boroujerdi (Iran)

Case Summary
Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, a 50-year-old Shi’a cleric, is currently imprisoned in Iran for his peaceful religious opinions. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience. Ayatollah Boroujerdi was reportedly ill-treated in detention. He suffers from a number of serious medical conditions including high blood pressure, a cardio-vascular disorder, and a kidney ailment. He has reportedly lost a considerable amount of weight in detention. He has not been receiving necessary medical treatment in detention and there is a serious concern that his health is deteriorating. He had originally been held in Evin Prison in Tehran but was transferred to a prison in Yazd in early December 2008 where he is reportedly only allowed contacts with other people for 15 minutes a day.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi advocates the removal of religion from the political basis of the Iranian state. He was arrested at his home in Tehran on 8 October 2006 along with more than 300 of his followers, during violent clashes with security forces. He and 17 followers were initially sentenced to death, but the death sentences were later dropped. On 13 August 2007 he was sentenced to serve one year in prison in Tehran, followed by ten years in prison in another part of the country. In addition to his sentence of 11 years' imprisonment, Ayatollah Boroujerdi was also defrocked (banned from wearing his clerical robes and thereby from practicing his clerical duties), and his house and all his belongings were confiscated.

He had reportedly been found guilty of at least 30 charges, including "waging war against God" (Moharebeh); acts against national security; publicly calling political leadership by the clergy (Velayat-e Faqih) unlawful; having links with anti-revolutionaries and spies; and using the term "religious dictatorship" instead of "Islamic Republic" in public discourse and radio interviews. Four of his followers Majid Alasti, Mehrdad Souri, Mohammad-Reza Sadeghi and Massoud Samavatiyan had their prison sentences upheld on 3 September 2008.

Since 1994 Ayatollah Boroujerdi says he has been summoned repeatedly before the Special Court for the Clergy and has been detained in Towhid and Evin Prisons. He has reportedly developed heart and kidney problems as a result of torture. His father was a prominent cleric who refused to accept the principle of velayat-e faqih (rule of the [Islamic] jurisconsult, or of those who know Islamic law), on which the Islamic Republic of Iran is based. He died in 2002 and his grave in the Masjed-e Nour mosque in Tehran has reportedly been desecrated and the mosque taken over by the state.

On 30 June 2006 the Ayatollah conducted a large religious ceremony at the Shahid Keshvari stadium in Tehran. On 30 July 2006, the security forces reportedly arrested several of his family and followers at their homes. The security forces also reportedly tried to arrest the Ayatollah himself, but were prevented from doing so by his followers. At least 41 of his followers were reportedly arrested in the courtyard of his house in Tehran during the morning of 28 September 2006. Those arrested were taken to Section 209 of Evin Prison where they were held for about three weeks. Some were reportedly tortured. Among those detained during the series of arrests were the Ayatollah’s 80-year-old mother and six-month-old grandson.

On 10 October 2006, an unattributed article entitled “On the plot of Kazemeyni-Boroujerdi; Propagating Islam with the assistance of the BBC and CIA” appeared in the Iranian newspaper Keyhan. The article described the clash during Ayatollah Bojoujerdi’s arrest as part of a plot by Western intelligence services such as those of the USA, Israel and the UK to use ethnic and religious minorities to damage Iran, and referred to the fact that the Ayatollah had made telephone calls to foreign radio stations such as the Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe (Radio Farda) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) before his arrest.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi's health deteriorated partially as a result of a hunger strike which he started on 19 February 2007. He began his hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention, and the authorities’ refusal to grant him temporary leave from prison to visit his dying mother prior to her death on 14 February 2007 and to attend her funeral. He was detained in a cold cell without a heater during the winter months. In addition, he allegedly suffered torture and ill-treatment during interrogation. When he appeared before the Special Court for the Clergy (SCC) between 18 and 20 March 2007, an eyewitness reported that he appeared to be bleeding from his mouth, and possibly occasionally coughing up blood. He was reportedly unable to walk upright.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi reportedly appeared at a hearing before the SCC on or around 14 February 2007. According to reports, he may have been charged with “acting against state security.” He had no access to legal representation and he has reportedly complained that he does not know "what they want from him". His bail was allegedly set at five billion Iranian Rials (about $US 564,000). He is reportedly unable to pay this sum.

On 18 February 2007, the cleric's eldest son, Sayed Mahdi Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, was arrested and was detained in Section 209 of Evin Prison, although Amnesty International is not aware of the reasons for his reported detention. Prior to this, since January 2007, both he and another son, Sayed Mohammad, had been summoned several times to appear before the SCC for questioning, allegedly in connection with the activities of their father. On 20 February, Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi's wife – whose name is not known to Amnesty International, was also summoned to appear before the SCC.

On 13 March 2007, an ‘interview’ with Ayatollah Boroujerdi was reportedly shown on local television in Iran. Apparently filmed in Evin Prison, where there is a specially equipped room for such programs, and entitled ‘Lying Claims’, he was wearing a prison uniform. Amnesty International was told that in the program Ayatollah Boroujerdi referred to his ‘lies’ and how his poor followers believed these and how most of his followers were women. Amnesty International was also told that his behavior and manner of speaking made it clear that he was under great stress.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi was sentenced to death in Branch 3 of the Special Court for the Clergy (SCC) on 10 June 2007, after an unfair and closed trial. Six of his followers were also sentenced to death on 13 June 2007. Ayatollah Boroujerdi was reportedly found guilty of at least 30 charges, including "waging war against God" (Moharebeh), for which the punishment is death; acts against national security; publicly calling political leadership by the clergy (Velayat-e Faqih) unlawful; having links with anti-revolutionaries and spies; and using the term "religious dictatorship" instead of "Islamic Republic" in public discourse and radio interviews. Also sentenced to death were: Massoud Samavatiyan, Alireza Montazer Sa’eb, Ali Shahrabi Farahani, Habib Qouti, Ahmad Karimiyan (m), Majid Alasti. On 13 August 2007 Ayatollah Borouderdi’s death sentence was commuted to 11 years imprisonment. The death sentences against his followers were also commuted to prison sentences.

Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi’s medical condition has gravely deteriorated while he has been in detention. On 10 September 2008, Ayatollah Boroujerdi's wife and the family lawyer went to Evin Prison in order for the Ayatollah to sign papers nominating the lawyer. They were denied access to Ayatollah Boroujerdi by the prison authorities. Without prior warning Ayatollah Boroujerdi was summoned to appear before the Special Court for the Clergy (SCC) on 1 September. The SCC tried to force him to give an interview to a government newspaper recanting his beliefs and seeking forgiveness from Iran’s Supreme Leader. On 2 September 2008, his doctor wrote to Iran’s judicial authorities informing them of his patient’s urgent, multiple and complex medical conditions that require immediate medical care outside of the prison. The doctor submitted a diagnosis of Ayatollah Boroujerdi’s heart condition, which is causing chest pains, suggesting that important arteries may be blocked. The Ayatollah also suffers from a kidney condition that causes considerable pain and he has lost around 40kg whilst in detention. He is also in a very poor psychological state. He was transferred to Yazd Prison in Central Iran in December 2008 and was reportedly held in solitary confinement since 27 January 2009.

On 1 May 2009, Ayatollah Boroujerdi wrote a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, requesting that international observers be sent to Iran in order to assist the Iranian people in an open referendum on the system of government. Apparently in retaliation for this letter, Ayatollah Boroujerdi was subjected to beatings on 5 May. He went on a hunger strike to protest the beatings and the suspension of his rights to make phone calls to his family and lawyer.

At the conclusion of their appeals, four other followers, Majid Alasti, Mehrdad Souri, Mohammad-Reza Sadeghi and Massoud Samavatiyan, had their prison sentences upheld by the SCC on 3 September 2008. Majid Alasti was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment to be served in exile in Zanjan prison, 330 km northwest of Tehran. Mehrdad Souri and Mohammad-Reza Sadeghi were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and are now held in Evin Prison. Massoud Samavatiyan was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment to be served in exile in Khoramabad, Lorestan province, western Iran.

Goals of this Action File  Obtain the immediate and unconditional release of Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression of his political views.

 Express international concern about reports that Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi has been ill-treated in custody, and obtain an independent and impartial investigation into these allegations.

 Ensure that Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi is treated humanely in detention, that he is not subjected to further torture and ill-treatment, and that he be given any necessary medical care.

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