A lawyer for an Iranian digital activist has accused authorities of illegally arresting and sending his client to prison last week to begin a sentence without first issuing a summons to give the activist a chance to report to the prison voluntarily.
In a December 3 interview with VOA Persian from Iran, lawyer Ali Sharifzadeh said security forces detained his client, Amir Pourang Sarmadi Tehrani, at the activist’s workplace in the northern city of Babolsar the previous day and sent the activist to a prison in nearby Babol.
Iranian authorities initially arrested Sarmadi Tehrani, who is in his mid-40s, in July 2019 before releasing him on bail the following month and later convicting him of national security crimes related to his peaceful online activism. A lower Revolutionary Court sentenced him to an effective five-year prison term in December 2019 and an appellate court upheld the sentence in May.
Sharifzadeh said the December 2 arrest of Sarmadi Tehrani was illegal because an Iranian judge did not first issue his client a summons to report to Babol prison voluntarily as required by Article 500 of Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
The article also includes a note saying an Iranian judge can forgo a prison summons and instead issue a warrant to arrest a convicted person if that person is deemed to be a flight risk. The note says the judge is required to enter any such determination into the convicted person’s case file.
Sharifzadeh told VOA that Sarmadi Tehrani was not a flight risk. “He also was not expecting to be sent to prison at the height of the coronavirus pandemic,” the lawyer said. But it was not clear if a judge had deemed Sarmadi Tehrani to be a flight risk before the activist was arrested.
VOA cannot independently verify the circumstances of Sarmadi Tehrani's arrest because it is barred from reporting inside Iran. There was no mention of him starting his prison term in Iranian state media.
Sarmadi Tehrani was one of 12 Iranian digital activists arrested and convicted last year of national security offenses including “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security,” insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and spreading anti-government propaganda.
Iranian rights activists have described the 12 activists as monarchists who expressed support for Iran’s U.S.-based exiled crown prince, Reza Pahlavi. They said Sarmadi Tehrani also used social media to post messages critical of Iran’s ruling Shiite clerics who ousted Pahlavi’s father from power in a 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The other 11 dissidents also were sentenced to years in prison for similar peaceful digital activities.