Dialogue of the day - a court order issued in Amol for a Baha'i faith follower

“A four and a half year prison sentence because of Facebook”

2 Jun 2011

2nd June 2011

Ardavan Roozbeh / Radio Koocheh

Translated by Avideh Motmaen-Far

Attending illegal meetings, denominational occasions, finding members through counterrevolutionary troubleshooting site Facebook, communication with more than five hundred people on Facebook,  mind-washing and deviant teachings against Islam…

This is a part of the charges and four year sentence of “Houshang Fanaiyan”, the forty-eight year old Baha’i Iranian citizen living in Amol is facing now. Another reason for this citizen to be sentenced to four and a half years prison is having written letters to the leader of the Islamic Republic. He who had seen, despite an expert’s guidance, his case in a court of justice change completely its course a few years ago, had written a letter to the Supreme Leader asking for justice to be made in his case. Jeanette Khanlari, Mr. Fanaiyan’s wife says: “We even showed the letter to the prosecutor, he also believed that the letter was not insulting, but the court says that my husband has insulted the Leader of Iran with this letter.”

In his letter, as a Baha’i Iranian citizen, he was asking Ayatollah Khamenei to give the order that “the injustice made to the minority Baha’i community on his name and the name of the Shiite community to end.” In another part of his letter also he mentions that he feels from the bottom of his heart that Iran’s supreme leader believes in love and friendship towards religious minorities, therefore should he allow this feeling to shine.”

Houshang Fanaiyan to three years prison because of his Baha’i faith, one year for membership in Facebook and six months for writing letters to the Iranian leader

It has been seventy-two days since he is in prison and even a family meeting has been denied to him. Although the court’s first sentence is questionable but it does not seem that even after the twenty-day deadline for objections anything changes considering the approach of people involved in this case. Ms. Khanlari, Mr. Houshang Fanaiyan’s wife, about her husband’s sentence told Radio Koocheh: ” Even after more than two months, the prosecutor refuses my husband to be released on bail in order to be able to prepare documents himself for his defense.”

This is while it is said that two days before his arrest, Mr. Houshang Fanaiyan had had an accident, his lumbar area has been hurt and since his arrest he has not been able to benefit of medical treatment for his back injury. Another Baha’i prisoner who is familiar with Mr. Fanaiyan’s case told Radio Koocheh: “the prison where Mr Fanaiyan is confined, ninety-six prisoners are confined in a thirty square-meter room and the prevalence of skin disease has increased.”

A person who wanted to stay anonymous also told Radio Koocheh: “The religious Baha’i books in Mr. Fanaiyan’s home along with his computers and CD’s and equipment have been considered as a crime for him.”

Now, the initial court order sentenced Houshang Fanaiyan to three years prison because of his Baha’i faith, one year for membership in Facebook and six months for writing letters to the Iranian leader.   During this period he has also been under interrogation by the intelligence services of Amol, northern Iran, in the province of Mazandaran.

Earlier, in May of this year also, nearly thirteen directors and active members of the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education in Iran were arrested in various cities. The center for higher education was founded in 1995 after the Islamic Republic banned Baha’is from studying in higher education and later expanded in various field. At the time of the arrest of some the directors and active members, they had “online” program to teach Baha’i students.

“Jeanette Khanlari”, Houshang Fanaiyan’s wife, in a conversation with Ardavan Roozbeh explains the latest news of Mr. Fanaiyan:

Ms. Khanlari! Your husband, Mr. Hooshang Fanaiyan has been sentenced to four and a half year prison in connection with Facebook and supposed insults to the Leader. What is exactly your husband ‘s conviction?

He was arrested by the intelligence officers, transferred to Kachuvy detention in Sari and detained there in solitary confinement for 28 days. Later he was transferred to Amol where we could only have telephonic communications. We tried to see a lot of people in order to be able to meet with him and this meeting was not even a direct contact.

On May 11th, he had a trial with Judge Hassanzadeh. The sentence was announced two weeks later according to which he was sentenced to four and a half years prison because of being a Baha’i, membership in opposition groups against the regime, participation in propaganda against the regime, membership in Facebook and a letter sent a few months ago to the Leader.

What was the content of the letter that Mr. Fanaiyan wrote to the Iranian leader that was considered to be insulting?

About four years ago, we had a financial problem for which we had to go on a trial. It was considered that to deal with it three experts should work on this case. The experts voted to our benefit and when we went back to trial, the case was completely reversed and we realized that the intelligence services closed our case. Then five intelligence officers came to our house, full of disrespect, poured out our sacred books, torn up Abdu’l-Baha icons, turned our kids rooms up side down in search of God knows what. They took kids’ computers, CDs and tapes. They wanted to arrest my husband and finally because one of them intervened, they did not take him. We tried a lot to know why this happened and it was useless, so my husband wrote a letter to the Leader, should he know what is going on in the country.

What could have been considered as insulting in his letter to the Leader according to the judge?

Nothing, even I showed the letter to the prosecutor, Mr. Fooladi. He said that the letter was not insulting at all. But when the verdict was announced, we saw that writing this letter has been a crime and sentenced to six months imprisonment. The letter was read throughout the world and no one spoke of it being degrading. Even a few judges I talked to and saw the letter and said that there was nothing insulting about it. I do not know why they have done such a thing. As if it was a decree by which all the Baha’i followers should be sentenced to three years imprisonment.



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