[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM Persian]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]
[Adopted from website:] Radio Zamaneh
[Date:] 9 Bahman 1387 [28 January 2009]
A conversation with Mohammad Mostafai, attorney and legal expert, on recent arrests in Iran
“Speaking in Generalities opens the judiciary to questions”
Spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, in his periodic meeting with journalists on 27 January, officially announced that six members of the minority Baha'i religion and one Christian have been arrested in Iran.
According to Mr. Jamshidi, the charge against this Christian citizen, who was made known by the media as the 51-year-old Hamik Khachikian, is blasphemy. He also said that the six Baha’is have been apprehended on charges of “preaching against the system” and their case is in its’ preliminary stages.
Mr Khachikian was detained on 21 January, and the other six Baha’is whose identity is not known were arrested on 14 January in Tehran.
These arrests following the recent arrests in Iran, once again brings into focus the way the judiciary views the religious minorities.
I had a conversation with Mohammad Mostafai about this issue.
In Iran there has always been an unspecified charge of “activities against national security and the system”, even though it has been pointed out that the recent arrests were not done due to any religious beliefs. Can you explain what the definition of “activities against national security and the system” is?
Regretfully, one of the weaknesses of our judicial system when it comes to arrests and detentions is a lack of transparency. When someone is arrested, he/she should have the possibility of employing the services of a defense attorney.
This is also good for the system so that the accusations by many of torture and the such leveled against the system, cannot in the future be made against the judiciary. Lack of transparency and speaking in generalities undermines people’s trust in the judicial system.
Moreover, aside from the official religious minorities recognized by the law, the constitution does recognize other people in another way. In article fourteenth of the constitution, we have that the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Muslims are required to deal with all non-Muslims, which also includes those not professing one of the officially-recognized minorities, with good will and Islamic justice and equity and to honor their human rights.
This principle is included in the constitution. Now they have added an exception to this principle. This principle is valid only for those who do not conspire or act against Islam or the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Now we see some people have been arrested and detained and then the judiciary announces that these people have been arrested on charges of activities against national security without providing any details. Activities against national security, is a too generalized charge without any specific detail.
We cannot use this charge for any and all activities. The charge “Activities against national security” is valid when someone forms a group and intends to act against the system or against the national security.
Also, in order for this to qualify as a crime, the physical, mental, and legal factors of the crime will have to be present. In arresting these individuals, the judiciary only made use of the legal factor.
The judiciary says that since activities against national security constitutes a crime therefore, we arrested these individuals on this charge. But it does not provide any details of the crimes committed. This lack of transparency weakens trust in the system.
The legislator says about crimes against national security that if someone of whichever creed, group forms or runs a group of more than two persons, under any name, inside or outside the country with the purpose of disrupting the security of the country.
But unfortunately, this lack of detail leads anyone outside the judicial system to think that the individual has been arrested and convicted illegally.
Arrests should be made only on specific charges. But in such cases, even in cases of students arrested, the judicial system provides no specific information.
But these days, there are dossiers in which even the name of the accused is not clearly stated. How do you follow up such a case?
Another unfortunate feature of any preliminary investigations into crimes against internal or external security of the country or of propaganda against the regime is that they are done in secret.
This secretiveness does away with the rights of the accused. This is one of the defects of the judiciary.
On the other hand, if some government office announces that a group of an individual has been arrested on charges of propaganda against the national security or the system, it will have to provide further details about how the propaganda was done.
When this specific information is not provided; the defense attorney is not allowed to intervene; the individual is left defenseless; a case can be cooked up against him; a confession can be forced out of him; and a conviction is forged and sent to the court for sentencing.
Also, since in such cases, investigations are speeded through, even if the accused wishes to hire an attorney, the attorney arrives too late to be of any help to the client.
This is unfortunately what goes on in our judicial cases specially those related to security. And it is up to the head of the judiciary to supervise such cases so that the activities of the judicial system do not raise any questions.