Undated image of Ali Nourizad, the son of a detained Iranian dissident, who was summoned to begin a prison term at Tehran's Evin jail in August 2020 for protesting Iran's downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020.(VOA Persian)
Undated image of Ali Nourizad, the son of a detained Iranian dissident, who was summoned to begin a prison term at Tehran's Evin jail in August 2020 for protesting Iran's downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020.(VOA Persian)

WASHINGTON - The wife of a jailed Iranian dissident has criticized her nation’s Islamist rulers for ordering the couple’s son to go to prison for protesting the Iranian military’s January shoot-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane, saying the wrong people were being imprisoned for the incident.  

Fatemeh Maleki announced in an August 11 Instagram post that authorities had summoned her son Ali Nourizad to report to Tehran’s Evin prison within five days to start his jail term. 

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به نام خداوند منتقم در سالگرد بازداشت غیرقانونی آقای محمد نوری زاد و دوستانشان به ما هدیه ای ویژه دادند دستشان درد نکند. عصر روز دوشنبه بیستم مرداد ۹۹ ابلاغیه ای مبنی بر احضار فرزندم؛ علی نوری زاد برای اجرای حکم ۳/۵ سال زندان ارسال شد. در شرایطی که کرونا در زندانها بیداد می کند و کشته های خاموش بسیاری دارد و قاعدتا باید زندانیان سیاسی آزاد شوند؛ در این وضعیت پسرم باید ظرف ۵ روز خود را به دادسرای اوین معرفی کند. برای تحت فشار قرار دادن پدرش این خبط را انجام داده اند و خطاهای دیگر که بهتر است ناگفته بماند. پسرم و پسران دیگر این مرز و بوم را می گیرند، می کشند تا مایه عبرت بقیه شوند، بد نیست به روند اعتراضات نگاهی بکنند و ببینند به مقصود خود رسیده اند؟! علی من که اصلا سیاسی نیست فکر می کنید بعداز خروج از زندان چگونه فردی خواهد شد؟ البته می دانم که گوش شنوایی نیست ولی می گویم و می نویسم که ثبت تاریخ شود. بنازید به این قدرتتان. پدر را به جرم حق گویی و دفاع از حق پایمال شده ملت به ۱۵ سال زندان محکوم می کنید تلفنش را قطع می کنید پسر را به خاطر حضور در بزرگداشت کشته شدگان هواپیمای اوکراینی به ۳/۵ سال زندان محکوم و برای اجرای حکم احضارش می کنید و فردا هم هزار و یک کار دیگر. براستی آیا کار دیگری از شما بر می آید؟!!!... فاطمه ملکی ۱۳۹۹/۵/۲۱

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Maleki’s husband, Mohammad Nourizad, is an Iranian filmmaker and journalist who has been jailed since August 2019 for signing an open letter calling on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to resign. In her Instagram post, Maleki said the government was summoning her son to prison to put pressure on her husband, who has protested his own detention and that of other political prisoners while in custody.  

Tehran’s Revolutionary Court had given the younger Nourizad a three-and-a-half-year sentence in April for the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security.” He had been arrested on January 12 for joining peaceful street protests sparked by the government’s belated admission that it had downed the Ukrainian passenger plane filled with Iranians four days earlier.  

Nourizad was released on bail on February 2.

Iran initially denied blame for the January 8 shoot-down of the Ukraine International Airlines jet shortly after it took off from Tehran on a flight to Kyiv.  

The incident happened as Iranian forces were on alert for a U.S. response to their missile strike on American troops in Iraq hours earlier. Iran had attacked the U.S. troops, wounding dozens, in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3.  

After three days of denials, Iranian officials admitted that their top military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, had mistaken the Ukrainian plane for an enemy threat and shot it down. All 176 on board the plane were killed, most of them Iranians.  

An Iranian judiciary spokesman said in June that six people had been arrested in connection with the downing of the plane but three of them had been released on bail. No prosecutions have been announced.  

By contrast, U.S. group Human Rights Watch said in May that Iran had sentenced least 13 people to prison terms “apparently solely for peacefully protesting” the IRGC’s missile strike on the Ukrainian airliner and the government’s initial denial of responsibility.  

In a Thursday interview with VOA Persian, Fatemeh Maleki noted that Iranian authorities had not yet brought those responsible for the plane crash to justice. “It is our children, who lit candles and chanted slogans in the streets in sympathy with the victims of the crash, who have to serve time in prison,” she said.  

Maleki said that by summoning her son to prison, Iranian authorities were trying to send a message that people should not join anti-government protests. “But when we consider that waves of protests in recent years have spread to more parts of Iran and had more participants, we see that the government is wrong,” she added.  

There has been no mention in Iranian state media of Ali Nourizad being summoned to prison. Maleki has not stated publicly whether her son reported to Evin by the Sunday deadline.  

Maleki also told VOA that authorities in Evin prison have barred her husband from using the phone to contact loved ones. She said family members have had no information about his condition inside the prison for several weeks.  

In May, Maleki told VOA sister network Radio Farda that her husband’s lawyer visited him at Evin and saw that he had tried to commit suicide, with bandages on his hand and face. Mohammad Nourizad had sent an audio message from prison the previous month, saying he was contemplating suicide to protest the harassment of his family by Iranian security forces. 

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran has said Tehran has a documented history of harassing and detaining activists’ and journalists’ family members as part of a long-established practice aimed at deterring Iranian citizens from publicly criticizing state policies.  

This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service. Click here for the original Persian version of the story.