Ahmad Zeidabadi is sent to serve out a sentence in exile after being released from prison this past May. Photo taken by Fars News Agency, and published for distribution.

Ahmad Zeidabadi is sent to serve out a sentence in exile after being released from prison this past May. Photo taken by Fars News Agency, and published for distribution.

This post first appeared on iranhumanrights.org and is published here in collaboration with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. 

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a journalist who served six years in prison for his work, was transferred to the city of Gonabad in northeastern Iran on 22 May to begin serving his time in exile. The Tehran prosecutor’s office informed Zeidabadi’s family in late May that he would be exiled to Gonabad immediately upon release from Rajaee Shahr Prison.

The immediate enforcement of Zeidabadi’s exile after such a long prison sentence is unusual and particularly shocking to his family, as many thought that his exile sentence would not be enforced.

A source knowledgeable about his case told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that his family was informed by the court that his five-year exile sentence had been changed to two years. The new decision, however, has not been officially announced by the court.

Revolutionary Guard intelligence agents arrested Zeidabadi, who is also secretary general of Iran’s nationwide Alumni Association (Advar), on June 12, 2009, and transferred him to the Guard’s Ward 2-A inside Evin Prison. He was put on trial on November 23, 2009, and was sentenced to six years in prison, five years in exile in Gonabad, and a lifetime ban on social and political activities on charges of “propaganda against the state,” “assembly and collusion to create riots after the presidential election,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”

In February 2010, along with a number of other political prisoners, he was transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, outside Tehran, where he served most of his prison term.

As a political analyst, he began his journalistic career at Etela’at Newspaper in 1989, and in the years prior to his arrest worked primarily with reformist newspapers. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Association of Iranian Journalists. The main reason for his 2009 prosecution was an open letter he had written to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, criticizing him for his lack of accountability.

According to the court order, Zeidabadi has to appear at the Gonabad governor’s office in person. “Earlier, an official inside the Tehran prosecutor’s office had informed Mr. Zeidabadi’s family about the enforcement of the journalist’s exile sentence, but the family did not believe it, as they didn’t think the officials would subject him to further torment after six years [in prison],” said the source.

In a May 19, 2015, post on her Facebook page, Zeidabadi’s wife, Mahdieh Mohammadi Gorgani, wrote, “We were waiting for Ahmad to be released on May 21 after six years in prison, but now they say they will take him to exile from prison. We feel so oppressed.”

Political prisoners in Iran

In an April 28, 2015, interview with Charlie Rose, when Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, was asked about journalists imprisoned in Iran, he asserted:

We do not jail people for their opinions. The government has a plan to improve, enhance human rights in the country. As every government should. And I believe we have an obligation as a government to our own people to do that. But people who commit crimes, who violate the laws of the country, cannot hide by being a journalist, being a political activist. People have to observe the law.

However, when Iranian Member of Parliament Ali Motahari was asked about whether there were political prisoners in Iran during a May 12, 2015, visit to Zanjan University, he answered:

Some prisoners had no role in the events of 2009 [a reference to the widespread protests that followed the disputed presidential election in Iran that year], but they are in prison simply because they have reformist thinking, or were active during the reformist era, and I have personally never understood what crime they committed.