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January 22 2024

Policy Briefs

Islamic Republic Cracks Down, Sentences Activists to a Combined 100+ Years in Prison

Tymahz Toumadje

POLICY ANALYST

In recent weeks, the Islamic Republic sentenced numerous political dissidents to a combined 100+ years in prison. Those sentenced include several protesters detained during the Woman, Life, Freedom protests that started in 2022, as well as family members of those killed during protests. A common ideological thread that seems to connect many of those sentenced is their support for Prince Reza Pahlavi.


The Bottom Line

  • As the regime in Iran continues its crackdown on political dissidents, they have sentenced at least 20 Iranians for a wide swath of crimes, including “insulting Islam in cyberspace”, “assembly and collusion against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the government”, “membership in anti-regime groups”, and “encouraging conflict within the country”.
    • These charges levied by the Islamic Republic regime are often used as broad, catch-all accusations. This tactic allows for the regime to arbitrarily imprison political dissidents with little to no burden of proof for their alleged crimes.
  • A common ideological thread connecting many of those sentenced is their support for Prince Reza Pahlavi, something seen throughout recent protests in Iran.
  • This streak of sentences is meant to continue to break the morale of the Iranian people who have persistently fought for change in Iran. Amid the global focus on the conflict in Israel and on the regime’s proxy groups, the Islamic Republic is exploiting the distraction to intensify actions against political dissidents with less international and domestic scrutiny.

Who Was Sentenced

  • Reza Mohammad Hosseini: Sentenced to 14 years and six months imprisonment
    • Six years and three months imprisonment for “membership in anti-regime groups to act against national security,” six years and three months imprisonment for “assembly and collusion against national security,” one year for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” one year for “defying government officers on duty.”
  • Mahboobeh Rezaie: Sentenced to 19 years and nine months imprisonment
    • Six years and three months for “membership in anti-regime groups to act against national security,” six years and three months for “assembly and collusion against national security,” one year for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” six years and three months for “blasphemy,” and paying a fine for “removing hijab and showing the act of depravity on the Internet.”
  • Samaneh Nowruz Moradi: Sentenced to 11 years imprisonment

    • Five years for “membership in anti-regime groups to act against national security,” five years for “assembly and collusion against national security,” and one year for “spreading propaganda against the regime.”
  • Manouchehr Bakhtiari: Sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

    • Five years for “assembly and collusion against national security,” five years for “forming and running groups on the Internet to disturb national security,” five years for “collaboration with anti-regime groups,” two years for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” and one year along with 74 lashes for “disseminating false information.”
  • Khaled Pirzadeh: Sentenced to five years and eight months imprisonment
    • Five years for “assembly and collusion against national security” and eight months for “spreading propaganda against the regime.”
  • Vahid Gol-Sorkh: Sentenced to 16 years imprisonment
    • Five years for “blasphemy,” five years for “assembly and collusion against national security,” one year for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” five years for “inciting people to violence.”
  • Others sentenced include, but are not limited to:
    • Mohammad Reza Kamranejad: Six years imprisonment
  • Kazem Alinejad Baraloo: 11 years imprisonment
  • Ali Asghar Hassani-Rad: Eight years imprisonment, 11 lashes
  • Vahid Ghadirzadeh: Six years imprisonment
  • Arsham Rezaie: 15 years imprisonment
  • Payam Bastani Parizi: 16 years imprisonment
  • Hojatollah Rafei: Six years imprisonment
  • Meysam Gholami: Six years imprisonment
  • Saman Rezaie: Five years imprisonment

Why Them and Why Now?

  • The Islamic Republic regime is targeting supporters of Prince Reza Pahlavi as all indications continue to show that he has more domestic support within Iran than any other opposition figure.
    • The regime’s growing fear of the opposition has become more clear in recent months. In early November 2023, political deputy of the IRGC Yadollah Javani publicly acknowledged domestic Iranian support for Reza Pahlavi’s return to Iran, saying some Iranians are calling for a “new revolution.”
  • As tensions have continued to rise in the Middle East, often with the Islamic Republic at the center of geopolitical developments in the region, mainstream domestic media in Iran has shifted its focus to foreign affairs rather than domestic issues. The regime has exploited this environment by handing out these sentences now, preventing them from receiving extensive coverage in mainstream domestic Iranian media, while also damaging the morale and motivation of supporters of Prince Reza Pahlavi.

Recommendations

  • In order to achieve the cessation of human rights abuses and arbitrary imprisonment in Iran, it is imperative to focus on dismantling the Islamic Republic regime. The best means by which to support the Iranian people in their political aspirations are laid out in NUFDI’s Maximum Support strategy.
    • NUFDI’s report, Hiding in the Shadows: Exposing Human Rights Violators in the 2022 Iranian Revolution, provides a list of 100 Islamic Republic regime officials and affiliates who have participated in human rights abuses and are not yet sanctioned by the United States.
  • Judge Iman Afshari, head of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, is responsible for the sentencing of several of the activists listed above and countless more before them. Afshari is notorious for his unfair trials and harsh sentencing. NUFDI’s report, Hiding in the Shadows, identified Afshari as a human rights violator to be sanctioned in September of 2023, but the United States is yet to place any sanctions on Afshari.

Image courtesy of AFP.