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Tuesday 06 December 2016
Alireza Rahmani, the director of public relations for the governor’s office in Qazvin, 89 miles (143 kms) northwest of Tehran, was arrested on November 29 for inviting friends online to support the release of imprisoned human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.
He was released a few hours later after posting 15-million-tomans bail ($4,700 USD).
Qazvin Prosecutor Esmail Sadeghi Niaraki told Fars news agency that the official had invited the public on social media to join a campaign in support of a “provocateur.”
“Following protests by numerous members of the media and the public against a Qazvin public relations official for supporting a provocateur, we took action and arrested the individual,” he added.
The prosecutor referred to Rahmani only by his initials “A. R.” but an investigation by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has found that he is in fact Alireza Rahmani.
Rahmani recently shared a post on a Telegram network channel devoted to Qazvin residents and asked his friends to sign a petition for Mohammadi’s release.
Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to 16 years in prison, ten of which she must serve, in May 2016, for her peaceful human rights activism, a sentence that was upheld by the Appeals court in September 2016.
In an unprecedented defense of a dissident, more than a dozen members of Iran’s Parliament, including Hamideh Zarabadi, an MP from Qazvin, called on the Judiciary in October 2016 to show “Islamic mercy” and review the prison sentence against Mohammadi.
“We plead with you to show Islamic mercy and nullify the sentence and order a new trial,” said the MPs in a letter to Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani on October 16, 2016. “Your Excellency is aware that issuing such sentences against critics would only raise the cost of constructive criticism, isolate critics and drive society into stagnation.”
“There’s only two ways two change the sentence against my client,” said Mohammadi’s lawyer, Mahmoud Behzadi, in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “One way would be for the judiciary chief (Sadegh Larijani) to respond positively to the letter from the MPs and step into this case. If Mr. Larijani finds the sentence in violation of the law and refers it to a new court for review, then we can be hopeful that the sentence would be thrown out. Another way would be for our defense team to put in an appeal with the Supreme Court.”
A week before the prosecutor announced the arrest of the public relations official, Qazvin Khabar, a conservative news site, published a screenshot of Rahmani’s post on Telegram along with his full name, criticizing him for “siding with individuals engaged in security crimes.”