Iran: detention and subsequent ill-treatment of HRD Hossein Ronaghi and indictment of rapper Saman Yasin (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to the Government of Iran on 16 November 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received, it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

Since the communication was sent, the Special Rapporteur has received information that Hossein Ronaghi was released on bail for medical treatment. Saman Yasin’s appeal is reportedly ongoing while a judicial process assesses the validity of the “moharebeh” charges against him.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication

BACKGROUND

Topic: arrest and detention of human rights defender, Mr. Hossein Ronaghi, his subsequent ill-treatment, critical health condition and medical neglect as well as the indictment of Mr. Saman Yasin, a Kurdish Yarasani rapper.

Mr. Hossein Ronaghi is a blogger, independent human rights defender and defender of Internet freedom. He was previously arrested twice, in 2009 and earlier in 2022, and spent six years in prison during which he developed severe medical conditions, leading to surgery and the removal of one kidney.

Mr. Saman Yasin is a Kurdish Yarasani rapper, aged 27.

ALLEGATIONS

The case of Mr Hossein Ronaghi

On 22 September 2022, Mr. Ronaghi was giving a live interview from his home with the London-based Iran International News on the protest demonstrations following the death of Ms. Mahsa Amini while in morality police custody. He interrupted the show and said “it seems they came.” He later shared a video showing how he had escaped by car from agents who had come to his home to arrest him. He said he would seek an explanation from the prosecutor, and said “I will go myself to the courthouse at Evin …if you want to arrest me again, or beat me or kill me, come there.”

On 24 September 2022, Mr. Ronaghi, also known as Baback Khoramddin, was arrested outside Evin Prison Courthouse, where he had been summoned to appear on that day. His family do not know the reason for the summons. Video recordings from the arrest showed people around him trying to help him as he was forcibly taken to the police car while shouting “I want to go to the courthouse, I want to go to the courthouse.”

In a subsequent telephone call from Evin Prison to his parents, Mr. Ronaghi told them he was beaten by riot police during his arrest, leading to fractures in both his legs, and head injuries. He said he had not received any medical attention or treatment, and told them he had started a hunger strike. Mr. Ronaghi has allegedly not had access to a lawyer, and his family has not been informed of the legal basis for his arrest, the reasons for his detention, nor whether any charges had been pressed against him.

According to Mr. Ronaghi’s family, the video shots of his arrest showed him being beaten by a group of men who were not wearing police uniform and could presumably be intelligence agents or riot police. One of the men holding Mr. Ronaghi by the neck while dragging him to a police car allegedly bore a resemblance to one of the agents who had gone to his home on 22 September 2022.

On 31 October 2022, Mr. Ronaghi’s father visited him in Evin Prison, and requested the release of his son on bail. He was allegedly threatened by a prosecution official who said that if Mr. Roghani did not accept to sign a confession, he would face charges warranting the death sentence if convicted. It was not clear what the confession would have included.

On 8 November 2022, Mr. Ronaghi’s father released a video recording expressing serious concern about his son’s life, that he needed medical care and special hospital treatment due to the hunger strike he was on for 47 days. He said that Mr. Ronaghi had partial kidney failure, was suffering from prostate and digestive system problems, and had vomited blood a few times. Mr. Ronaghi was reportedly not given any medication or treatment since his arrest. While he did receive care for his injured legs, he was still unable to walk.

On 13 November 2022, Mr. Ronaghi was taken to Dey Hospital in Tehran following a severe deterioration in his health. According to his family and other human rights defenders, Mr. Ronaghi has been held in a part of Evin Prison that is usually reserved for political prisoners and Iran’s Revolutionary Court is the judiciary responsible to try him. He had been vocal in his support for the protest demonstrations that broke out in Iran after Ms. Amini’s death and his family and human rights observers claim that this is the reason for his arrested.

Mr. Ronaghi was previously arrested and detained for his blog posts critical of the Iranian Government, and for defending the right to freedom of expression, in particular speaking up against legislation restricting access to the Internet.

In December 2009, Mr. Ronaghi was arrested when he helped journalists and political activists circumvent a website ban imposed following widespread protests against the presidential election results.

In October 2010, Mr. Ronaghi was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Revolutionary Court on charges of “membership in Iran Proxy Network with the intention of disrupting the national security”, “insulting the supreme leader and the president”, and “spreading misinformation” through his critical blogs. Mr. Ronaghi went on multiple hunger strikes to protest the poor prison conditions, and, due to a delay in providing him with medical attention, Mr. Ronaghi suffered kidney problems that led to surgery and the removal of one kidney.

In 2019, Mr. Ronaghi was released from prison with severe health conditions, after a total of six years in detention in addition to medical furloughs.

On 24 February 2022, Mr. Ronaghi was taken from his home by unidentified security forces and forcibly disappeared for three days, after which he called his family from Evin Prison and told them he was going on a hunger strike. The arrest came after Mr. Ronaghi condemned on twitter the ratification in parliament of a bill, the “User Protection Bill”, which would restrict Iranians’ access to the Internet. During his detention, Mr. Ronaghi was denied family visits or access to his lawyer.

On 2 March 2022, Mr. Ronaghi was released on bail, pending trial for the charges of “propaganda against the regime,” and “congregating and colluding against national security.”

The case of Mr Saman Yasin

According to information received, Mr. Saman Yasin was arrested on 2nd of October 2022 in Tehran in relation to his songs in which he reportedly criticized the Government.

On 29 October 2022, Mr. Yasin was charged with “moharebeh” or “war against God”, an offence carrying the death penalty, in Tehran Revolutionary Court.

CONCERNS

In the communication, we express grave concern at the critical medical condition Mr. Ronaghi and the lack of medical attention as well as the lack of information regarding his health condition while on hunger strike. We are also concerned at the lack of information regarding the reason and legal basis for his arrest, the legal reason for his detention, and his lack of access to a lawyer.

We also express our grave concern in relation to the sentencing of Mr. Saman Yasin under charges of “moharebeh”, which constitutes an offense carrying the death penalty.

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