AI Index: MDE 13/087/2008
26 June 2008
Fear of torture or other ill-treatment / Medical concern / Prisoner of conscience
Arzhang Davoodi (m), aged 56, teacher and writer
Political activist Arzhang Davoodi has been prevented from appealing to the Supreme Court against a 15-year sentence handed down as punishment for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. He has been tortured.
Arzhang Davoodi, a writer and the Director of the Parto-e Hekmat Cultural Education Center in Tehran, was arrested in October 2003 for being involved in the production of a TV documentary called Forbidden Iran in which he spoke out about human rights violations in Iran. He was held in a detention facility run by the Revolutionary Guards until March 2004, spending over three months in solitary confinement. He was then moved to Evin Prison in Tehran, where he was severely beaten and tortured: his jaw and shoulder were broken. Arzhang Davoodi was not charged for at least a year. In a letter from prison dated July 2005, he said that he had been sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment and 70 lashes by a Revolutionary Court, which deals with crimes against national security. His appeal was rejected. He was convicted on charges of establishing and directing an organisation opposed to the government; writing and publishing a book opposed to Iran's system of government, called Manifesto for a Secular Iran; organizing action to undermine the state; and involvement in the production of the TV documentary. On 20 September 2005 he was sent into internal exile in Bandar Abbas Prison, Hormozgan Province, 1500 km south of his home in Tehran. He was told of his sentence, but never given a written copy of his sentencing order, though this is required by law. His sentenced was passed behind closed doors and his lawyers, who have yet to see the court’s sentencing order, were not allowed in. Arzhang Davoodi's appeal is now due to be heard by the Supreme Court, but this cannot be done without the sentencing order, which he is also obliged to sign.
Arzhang Davoodi was sent back to Evin Prison in December 2007, for questioning. On 14 April 2008 he was put into solitary confinement, for reasons unknown, and began a hunger strike on 18 April. Ten days later he was transferred to Section 6 of Reja'i Shahr Prison in the city of Karaj, 20 km west of Tehran; this section of the prison is for violent criminals, including murderers. In a DATE radio interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle his wife, Nazanin Davoodi, said that she had last been allowed to visit him in May 2008, when he was in Reja'i Shahr Prison. On 6 June she had spoken to him by phone, and found that he was too weak to talk for long. The Evin prison authorities have threatened to move Arzhang Davoodi back to Bandar Abbas unless he stops his hunger strike.
The TV documentary Forbidden Iran was filmed secretly and illegally. It was widely broadcast in northern Europe in December 2003 and in North America in January 2004. Arzhang Davoodi had assisted in the making of the documentary and was one of those interviewed on film. During his interview he spoke about political prisoners and the death in custody of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi. The documentary can be seen at http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/iran.
Arzhand Davoodi was the subject of UA 87/04 (MDE 13/016/2004, 27 February 2004 and follow-ups).
Iranian legislation severely restricts freedom of expression and association, and human rights defenders often face harassment, imprisonment and torture. The Iranian Constitution protects freedom of expression: Article 24 provides for freedom of expression in press and publications. Iran is a state party to international human rights treaties that enshrine these rights, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Penal Code contains a number of vaguely worded provisions relating to association and "national security" which prohibit a range of activities, many of them connected with journalism or public discourse, which are permitted under international human rights law. Human rights defenders are often imprisoned on politically motivated criminal charges. Many are subject to travel bans that prevent them from leaving the country.