Law Student Begins Six-Month Prison Term for Social Media Posts Critical of State Policy

“They told me, ‘If you want to live in peace, stop writing, stop your activities.’”

Amir Chamani Taken to Tabriz Prison, Lawyer Not Notified

In a continuing assault on freedom of speech—particularly the peaceful expression of views critical of state policy—the law student and civil rights activist Amir Chamani was taken from his place of work and transferred to Tabriz Central Prison in northwest Iran on December 17, 2018, after the Appeals Court upheld his six-month prison sentence for posts on social media about political and economic issues, his lawyer told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“Yes, it’s true he has been taken into custody,” attorney Abbas Jamali said on December 19. “My client was detained without my knowledge and taken to Tabriz prison in connection with the six-month sentence he received following his arrest in late May 2018. He was also charged with ‘insulting the Supreme Leader,’ for which he was fortunately not found guilty, but the Appeals Court upheld the sentence [for ‘propaganda against the state’] despite our objection.”

A law student at Payame Noor University in Tabriz, Chamani specializes in social and political issues. He had an active presence on social media through his FacebookTwitter and Instagram accounts and regularly commented on current affairs with a critical eye, particularly about labor and human rights issues.

The preliminary sentence against him was issued on September 1, 2018 by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Tabriz presided by Judge Rahim Hamlbar, whose name is on a UK sanctions list for issuing harsh sentences against numerous peaceful activists in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province.

The same judge had previously sentenced Chamani to nine months in prison for “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the Supreme Leader,” which the activist served in Tabriz Central Prison until his release on October 3, 2013.

The law student was also flogged 40 times on June 5, 2013 when Branch 104 of the Criminal Court in Tabriz convicted him of “insulting the President.” The UN has determined “sentences of flogging … violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Chamani’s latest arrest was carried out by Intelligence Ministry agents on May 26, 2018. The Intelligence Ministry, which is under the direct authority of President Rouhani, has become one of the leading human rights violators in Iran, responsible for the arrest of a significant number of activists, students, minority community leaders and human rights defenders over the past few years.

A few days before his arrest Chamani had tweeted: “I am free on bail set at 50 million tomans ($11,870 USD) until my trial in the Revolutionary Court. They told me, ‘If you want to live in peace, stop writing, stop your activities.”