Release Date: August 23, 2005
WASHINGTON—The authoritative Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported yesterday that Institute visiting fellow Mohsen Sazegara has been sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison. Revolutionary Court Branch 26 confirmed a previous one-year sentence, then added six more years without clearly explaining the charges behind them. Although Dr. Sazagara's lawyers were verbally informed of the sentence by the court, they have been unable to obtain official notice, which is being withheld in violation of Iranian law. Authorities in Tehran may hope to limit his ability to protest the sentence either in the court of public opinion or directly in appellate court.
A founding member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in February 1979, Dr. Sazegara has emerged in recent years as a leading light of the movement for liberal, democratic change in Iran. When his candidacy for president was rejected by the hardline Guardian Council in 2001, he initiated a campaign for a popular referendum on replacing Iran's Islamic constitution. He was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence in 2003 and was detained in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison. While there, he staged two lengthy hunger strikes, losing nearly a third of his body weight before authorities permitted him to leave Iran for medical treatment.
Dr. Sazegara joined The Washington Institute as a visiting fellow in April 2005. He remains determined to pursue peaceful change in Iran and says that he wants to return to his country as soon as he completes medical treatment, despite being faced with prison.
In reaction to the sentencing, he stated, "I was not informed about the trial or given a chance to defend myself against these trumped-up charges, which only shows the injustice of the Iranian legal system." Previously, he analyzed the arbitrary character of the Iranian legal system and its tendency to violate human rights in PolicyWatch no. 999, "'Lawful Crimes' in Iran," issued on June 1, 2005.
Protest messages regarding Dr. Sazegara's trial and sentencing can be directed to:
H.E. Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Ave
New York, NY 10017