Washington, D.C. – On May 30, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on six Iranians and three Iran-based entities, including Evin Prison in Tehran. In a statement, the Department of Treasury designated Evin Prison as an entity “responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against persons in Iran or Iranian citizens or residents, or the family members of the foregoing.”
“We welcome steps taken by the Department of Treasury to address rampant human rights abuses in the Iranian prison system,” said Freedom Now Legal Director Kate Barth. “Evin is only one of 201 prisons in Iran, but it is by far the most notorious, holding many of the country’s prisoners of conscience. The treatment of prisoners, particularly female prisoners, is abominable. It is our hope that these sanctions move us closer to the shuttering of Evin and freedom for all prisoners of conscience in Iran.”
According to the Iran Prison Atlas, 83 of Iran’s 820 prisoners of conscience are detained in Evin Prison. One such prisoner is Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee. In July 2017, after the Iranian authorities staged a sham tour of Evin for foreign ambassadors, Iraee and fellow prisoner Atena Daemi wrote an open letter detailing the poor conditions of the facility. Among other things, the letter described the prison’s unsanitary conditions, unhealthy water, and lack of medical attention for female prisoners, as male doctors refuse to treat female prisoners for religious reasons and the prison lacks sufficient female medical staff. As a result of their letter, Iraee and Daemi were beaten by prison guards and transferred to a different prison facility. In February 2018, Iraee staged an 81 day hunger strike to protest the treatment. She was transferred back to Evin earlier this month.
In April 2018, Freedom Now and Dechert LLP filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Iraee, arguing that her continued detention is a violation of international law.
Iraee was arrested on September 6, 2014 with her husband Arash Sadeghi, an activist who has been arrested and imprisoned no less than four times since December 2009, and two friends at her husband’s workplace. The exact circumstances and alleged reasons for her initial arrest are undisclosed. The authorities did not present an arrest warrant or any form of identification.
After this arrest, authorities violently ransacked the couple’s home without a search warrant. The authorities confiscated personal possessions such as laptops, CDs, and papers. Among the papers was a notebook that Iraee used as a personal diary. It contained a fictional handwritten story in which a female character watches The Stoning of Soraya M, a 2008 Persian-language film depicting the true story of a woman stoned to death for adultery. The character is upset by Soraya’s fate and burns the Qur’an in an emotionally charged moment.
Iraee was interrogated about the contents of the diary and the story. During her initial interrogation, she was repeatedly pressured to confess under threat of execution. She was questioned in a room adjoining the location where her husband was detained and could hear him being abused through the walls. Iraee was placed in solitary confinement for three days and endured twenty days without access to a family, lawyer, or court proceeding.
Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court convened Iraee’s trial in May 2015. She was charged with “insulting Islamic sanctities” for the diary entry and “spreading propaganda against the system” for two separate Facebook posts as well as possession of alleged propaganda in her home. The trial was rife with procedural violations. For example, because the trial focused on the activities of Sadeghi, Iraee was barred from defending herself. Additionally, Iraee’s first lawyer was pressured to withdraw and her second lawyer was barred from representing her.
Despite these violations, Iraee was convicted in absentia and sentenced to six years in prison, the maximum allowable prison term for each charge; this charge was later reduced to two and one half years in prison as part of a Nowrooz (Iranian New Year) pardon. Sadeghi was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” for interviews he conducted about human rights and prison conditions; “spreading lies in cyberspace” for Facebook posts about political prisoners and 1980s Iranian history; and “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic” for the same Facebook posts.
After her conviction, Iraee was released from detention and allowed to return home. She never received a formal summons to begin serving her sentence. However, on October 24, 2016 she was arrested by intelligence officials who escorted her to prison.
In October 2016, Sadeghi began a widely publicized 71 day hunger strike to pressure authorities to release his wife. In response to the strike, authorities granted Iraee leave on January 3, 2017 in exchange for a bail payment. Yet, the release was short-lived. She was re-arrested on January 22, 2017 on her way to visit Sadeghi in the hospital and has remained in detention ever since.