Die öffent­li­ches State­ment von Dr. Sedig­heh Vasmaghi

In the Name of God of Free­dom and Wis­dom State­ment of Defence

I, the under­si­gned, Sedig­heh Vas­maghi, poet, wri­ter, for­merly tenu­red pro­fes­sor of theo­logy at the Uni­ver­sity of Tehran and scho­lar of Isla­mic stu­dies, hereby declare that I was sum­mo­ned to the Revo­lu­tio­nary Court on June 24, 2020, as a result of a com­plaint filed by the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence and the Revo­lu­tio­nary Guards’ Legal Divi­sion for my alle­ged activi­ties against the regime.

I will not be atten­ding this court hea­ring for the fol­lo­wing reasons:

1. Accor­ding to Arti­cles 159 and 61 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Isla­mic Repu­blic of Iran, as well as arti­cles like 32, 34, 36 and 37, which speak about court juris­dic­tions and com­pe­ten­ces, the Revo­lu­tio­nary Court is not com­pe­tent to deal with legal claims; all such liti­ga­tion must be dealt with by the Gene­ral Courts.

2. Accor­ding to Arti­cle 168 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, all poli­ti­cal liti­ga­tion must be open to the public and held before a jury. The alle­ga­tion that a poli­ti­cal accu­sa­tion is directly rela­ted to natio­nal secu­rity con­cerns does not make it a natio­nal secu­rity issue. Such an alle­ga­tion is inten­ded as an excuse for deny­ing the exis­tence of poli­ti­cal cases, with the aim of chan­ging the pro­ce­dure and avo­iding a public hea­ring in the pre­sence of a jury. Even the pro­se­cu­to­rial pro­cess, due to natio­nal secu­rity rela­ted issues, must be sub­ject to the law and legal procedure.

3. The Revo­lu­tio­nary Court igno­res and dis­re­spects the law and legal pro­ce­dure in dea­ling with poli­ti­cal accusations.

4. The pre­si­dents of the court bran­ches fail to observe neu­tra­lity in hand­ling poli­ti­cal charges.

5. Some Revo­lu­tio­nary Court jud­ges fail to com­ply with the mini­mum requi­re­ments of the judi­cial position.

6. The judi­ci­ary lacks inde­pen­dence in hand­ling poli­ti­cal char­ges; I have heard this from a num­ber of revo­lu­tio­nary court offi­ci­als, in addi­tion to other evi­dence and testimonies.

7. The plain­tiffs, pro­se­cu­tor and inter­ro­gator of the Cul­ture and Media Court branch 4 lack neu­tra­lity, as I will explain below. Why on earth should I attend the court hea­ring, given that I do not expect the trial to be fair, but rather that it will be based on an indict­ment pre­pa­red accor­ding to the reports of influ­en­tial intel­li­gence agen­cies, wit­hout being legally eva­lua­ted by the pro­se­cu­tor and wit­hout pro­ving its neu­tra­lity? One may ask why I atten­ded a hea­ring in 2017 in the first place. My ans­wer is that I wan­ted to docu­ment my own per­so­nal expe­ri­ence of a Revo­lu­tio­nary Court trial.

The Title of the Indict­ment and Documentation

I am accu­sed, through an indict­ment, of activi­ties against the Regime and of signing a state­ment under the title, “Respect the People’s Demands.” This refers to a state­ment I signed, along with seventy-six other indi­vi­du­als, fol­lo­wing the Novem­ber pro­tests of 2019, when we objec­ted to and pro­tes­ted against the crack­down on demonstrators.

The main docu­men­ta­tion of the indict­ment con­sists of the following:

• Com­plaint and decla­ra­tion of guilt by the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence (Novem­ber 17, 2019) and by the Intel­li­gence Unit of the Revo­lu­tio­nary Guards (Novem­ber 7, 2019)

• Exp­li­cit con­fes­sion by some of the accu­sed to being fully aware of the text of the state­ment, and admit­ting their signature.

• The accu­sed fai­led to pro­vide any evi­dence that the vic­tims of the demons­tra­ti­ons were shot by the secu­rity forces of the Isla­mic Repu­blic, whe­reas the cause of death of some ordi­nary and inno­cent people has not yet been ascer­tai­ned, alt­hough it resul­ted from a kil­ling sce­na­rio pre­plan­ned by oppor­tu­nistic rio­ters, and accor­ding the Lea­der of the Revo­lu­tion these vic­tims are con­side­red as martyrs.

• The accu­sed have cer­tain poli­ti­cal lea­nings. In the report of the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence and that of the legal deputy office of the Intel­li­gence Unit of the Revo­lu­tio­nary Guards, there are other mat­ters spe­ci­fi­cally tar­ge­ting me: • An arti­cle under the title “What should be done with those who orde­red the [Novem­ber] kil­lings and those who car­ried out their orders?”

• Signing a state­ment with a group of reli­gious refor­mists on March 2, 2019, under the title “We demand the sepa­ra­tion of state and reli­gion in Iran.” • Signing a state­ment recom­men­ding nego­tia­ti­ons with the United Sta­tes government.

• Tal­king to Persian-language media out­lets outs­ide the country.

Descrip­tion of defence:

Before anything, I need to offer two major and basic objec­tions regar­ding my case and the com­plaint filed against me:

(a) As sta­ted in the indict­ment, I am accu­sed of activity against the regime through release of a state­ment after the mass pro­tests in Novem­ber 2019 against the sud­den three-fold increase in the price of gaso­line (petrol). This inap­pro­priate action stir­red pro­tests during which nume­rous pro­tes­tors were kil­led. As a result, seventy-seven people, inclu­ding me, signed a state­ment objec­ting to the kil­ling and sup­p­res­sion of the demons­tra­tors. One of my main objec­tions is that being signatory to a state­ment, even in pro­test, can­not be con­side­red a cri­mi­nal activity – it is neit­her a poli­ti­cal crime nor an act against natio­nal secu­rity. Howe­ver, the chap­ter in the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Isla­mic Repu­blic that is devo­ted to the rights of the people pro­vi­des citi­zens with free­dom of speech; and since no natio­nal secu­rity crime was com­mit­ted, intel­li­gence agen­cies such as the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence and the Intel­li­gence Unit of the Revo­lu­tio­nary Guards are not qua­li­fied to file a com­plaint against me and the­re­fore their com­plaint is to be rejec­ted. The case inves­ti­ga­tion con­duc­ted at the Cul­ture and Media Court speaks for its­elf, and pro­ves that the accu­sa­tion is not a natio­nal secu­rity rela­ted crime, con­trary to the plaintiff’s and prosecutor’s opi­nion. More­over, the above­men­tio­ned state­ment expres­ses a gene­ral oppo­si­tion to the sup­p­res­sion of pro­tests of any kind and by any orga­niza­tion. The­reby and accor­ding to Arti­cles 10 and 11 of the Cri­mi­nal Code, spe­ci­fic orga­niza­ti­ons such as the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence and the Intel­li­gence Unit of the Revo­lu­tio­nary Guards are not qua­li­fied to file a com­plaint in this case. If by issuing this 3 state­ment a gene­ral crime is com­mit­ted, only the public pro­se­cu­tor is per­mit­ted to advance his case in the court.

(b) The second basic objec­tion is rela­ted to the lack of neu­tra­lity on the part of the pro­se­cu­tor who issued the indict­ment, and who should, accor­ding to his legal posi­tion, observe neu­tra­lity to the utmost in review­ing the docu­ments rela­ted to this case, regard­less of any poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion. Howe­ver, this neu­tra­lity was not main­tai­ned even in the pre­pa­ra­tion of the indict­ment, and at one point, for instance, it says: “All accu­sed are of one poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion.” Cle­arly, poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­ti­ons should not be con­side­red in judi­cial pro­cee­dings. Nor should the judi­cial offi­cers apply their own poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­ti­ons; the above-mentioned point sug­gests the prosecutor’s poli­ti­cal bias in issuing the indict­ment. One signi­fi­cant point is that fif­teen of the seventy-seven people who signed the state­ment have been selec­ted for court trial. Using this method to deal with the signa­to­ries to the state­ment rai­ses many issues, the most import­ant of which is that the insti­tu­ti­ons invol­ved in liti­ga­tion were not pur­suing legal pro­cee­dings, but instead see­king to rea­lize the objec­tives spe­ci­fied by the intel­li­gence agen­cies, which are refer­red to in the reports and which I will explain later. Ano­ther import­ant point is that this is the result of the judiciary’s failure to main­tain its inde­pen­dence, thus beco­m­ing an acces­sory to those secu­rity bodies.

These two objec­tions (a & b) seriously under­mine the inte­grity of the com­plaints filed by the above two intel­li­gence bodies, and the indict­ments issued, which are the basis of the inves­ti­ga­tion by the Revo­lu­tio­nary Court.

Howe­ver, des­pite the two major objec­tions, con­side­ring the import­ance of the mat­ter and in order to make rea­ders of my state­ment of defence aware of the logic behind the com­plaints against me, I intend to respond to some of the asser­ti­ons and claims pre­sen­ted in the indict­ment as well as in the reports of the intel­li­gence bodies. To avoid con­fu­sing topics, I will explain them in the fol­lo­wing order:

1. Accor­ding to Arti­cle 2 of the Isla­mic Cri­mi­nal Code and Arti­cle 36 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, the crime must have legal stan­ding, in the sense that a cri­mi­nal act clai­med by the plain­tiff should be reco­gnized in the law as a crime. (See arti­cle rela­ted to lega­lity of crime and punish­ment.) Sharia juris­pru­dence also ack­now­ledges the lega­lity of crime and punish­ment. The term ‘pro­pa­gan­distic activity against the regime’ is a gene­ral one, and does not count as a cri­mi­nal offense in the law. This term has been misused by judi­cial refe­rees, who are sup­po­sed to be neu­tral and to pro­tect people’s rights and liber­ties, in order to put restric­tions on cri­tics as well as on civil and poli­ti­cal activists. This term has also been misused against free­dom of thought and speech, so much so that civil activi­ties such as oppo­si­tion to exe­cu­tion orders and to the man­datory veil for women, and cri­ti­cism of offi­ci­als, have been deemed pro­pa­gan­distic activity against the regime. While the main tar­get of a legis­la­tor – to safe­guard the rights of cri­tics and opponents – is over­looked, the fact is that those who advo­cate the regime’s poli­cies do not usually face any reper­cus­sions in this regard. Exten­ding the scope of this term to issues that, accor­ding to the law, are not and should not be cri­mi­nal acts, leave no place eit­her for cri­ti­cism of public offi­ci­als’ con­duct or for oppo­si­tion to the use of vio­lence against citi­zens. Any forms of cri­ti­cism and pro­test ral­lies are part of citi­zens’ rights, as sti­pu­la­ted in the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Isla­mic Repu­blic, arti­cle 9 of which sta­tes that 4 one can­not restrict these free­doms under the pre­text of main­tai­ning inde­pen­dence and sover­eignty, even by enac­ting a law. In the pre­sent case, issuing or signing a state­ment is not a crime; the same rule applies to the excer­pts from the state­ment refer­red to by the hono­u­ra­ble pro­se­cu­tor and intel­li­gence bodies. The fol­lo­wing are some of the phra­ses in the state­ment that were deemed to be cri­mi­nal in their view:

  • Reck­less shoo­ting at civi­li­ans with guns pro­cu­red from the natio­nal bud­get for the use for the defence of the people. This is a crime, and the law and the judi­ci­ary should not delay for a moment in pur­suing, pro­se­cu­ting and punis­hing the perpetrators.
  • It is unfor­t­u­nate that deca­des after the esta­blish­ment of a Judi­ci­ary, the natu­ral right to pro­test against govern­ment poli­cies is thus violated.
  • The aut­ho­ri­ties’ secret deci­sion making, igno­ring the rule of law and the Constitution’s prin­ci­ples, more than any enemy threa­tens the foun­da­tion of our dear coun­try and the fate of its citizens.
  • Force­ful tre­at­ment of des­pe­rate people is not acceptable.
  • Avoid vio­lence at any level and reco­gnize the rights enshri­ned in the Constitution.
  • Demand free and fair elec­tions, allo­wing all poli­ti­cal ten­den­cies to par­ti­ci­pate. (This issue was exp­li­citly chal­len­ged by the Minis­try of Intelligence.)
  • Recom­mend the nor­ma­liza­tion of for­eign rela­ti­ons in order to have the sanc­tions lifted.
  • None of the above state­ments counts as a crime in law. It is not a cri­mi­nal act to voice any one of these state­ments. The con­t­ents of these state­ments are totally accep­ta­ble and rea­son­able to judi­cious people. But neit­her plain­tiff nor pro­se­cu­tor made any argu­ments with respect to the cri­mi­nal con­tent of the state­ment. For example, the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence objec­ted to our request for free and fair elec­tions. It is no secret that the Guar­dian Council’s super­vi­sion of and inter­fe­rence in the elec­tion pro­cess has been sub­ject to dis­pute, even cri­sis, for three deca­des. Accor­ding to a wide range of people, experts, poli­ti­cal par­ties and groups, this kind of super­vi­sion by any mea­sure would damage the fair and free pro­cess of elec­tions. It is asto­nis­hing that the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence finds our rai­sing of this signi­fi­cant natio­nal issue objec­tio­nable. It should be empha­si­zed that this issue will not be resol­ved by deny­ing its existence.
  • 2. Some of the points in the indict­ment, as well as reports by the intel­li­gence agen­cies, indi­cate that the judi­ci­ary and the intel­li­gence bodies are used as a tool to sup­p­ress cri­tics and opponents and to restrict the free­dom and civil rights of citi­zens. As sta­ted in the indictment:
  • Exp­li­cit con­fes­sion by some of the accu­sed to being fully aware of the text of the state­ment, and admit­ting their signature.
  • The report of the Intel­li­gence Unit of the Revo­lu­tio­nary Guards sta­tes that they deci­ded to take action against the signa­to­ries of said state­ment in order to prevent any poten­tial alli­ance bet­ween the “Fitna move­ment” [wides­pread pro­tests in the after­math of the 2009 pre­si­den­tial elec­tion], refor­mists and the body of demons­tra­tors. Accor­ding to its decla­ra­tion on Novem­ber 15, 2019, this orga­niza­tion also war­ned and threa­tened those who aut­ho­red the state­ment. 5 These two points would suf­fice to illus­trate how the power of the judi­ci­ary and intel­li­gence orga­niza­ti­ons was used, impro­perly and con­trary to their true responsi­bi­li­ties, to serve as a means of sup­p­res­sion and restric­tion of free­dom and to apply unla­w­ful punish­ments to indi­vi­du­als. In the indict­ment, the pro­se­cu­tor sta­tes that the signa­to­ries to the state­ment were under pres­sure to deny their signa­ture. My own expe­ri­ence under inter­ro­ga­t­ion testi­fies to this fact.
  • 3. The judi­ci­ary, as well as mili­tary and intel­li­gence bodies, should adopt neu­tra­lity in order to ful­fil their responsi­bi­li­ties. Other­wise, these orga­niza­ti­ons will become cor­rupt, and people’s rights and free­dom will be tramp­led on. At pre­sent, and in this case, neit­her the pro­se­cu­tor nor the inter­ro­gator rep­re­sen­ting the Cul­ture and Media Court (branch num­ber 4), nor the plain­tiffs (the secu­rity and intel­li­gence bodies), acted in a neu­tral way. All of them, having the same poli­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion, see­med to be com­pli­cit with each other in punis­hing those the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence thought to be the rio­ters and ins­ti­ga­tors of the unrest in 2009. The Minis­try of Intelligence’s report dated Novem­ber 17, 2009 and addres­sed to the pro­se­cu­tor sta­tes: “After the gas ratio­ning, some of the activists of the 2009 unrest, in the form of a state­ment signed by seventy-seven indi­vi­du­als, bea­ring the title ‘Respect the People’s Demands,’ stood in defence of the rio­ters … They are mainly the offen­ders, pro­tes­tors and rio­ters in the 2009 unrest.” The signa­to­ries to the state­ment were refer­red to as having dif­fe­rent poli­ti­cal ten­den­cies. The point is that the said orga­niza­ti­ons, which are sup­po­sed to stand for justice and pro­tect the secu­rity of the people and the coun­try, wit­hout ack­now­led­ging the people’s right to pro­test, deem people pro­tes­ting against rising pri­ces to be rio­ters. Based on their bia­sed opi­nion, they made a false judg­ment about the activi­ties of the cri­tics and signa­to­ries of this state­ment regar­ding the sup­p­res­sion and kil­ling of the pro­tes­ters. During the inter­ro­ga­t­ion, the inter­ro­gator of the Cul­ture and Media Court (branch number
  • 4) refer­red to parts of the state­ment made by the seventy-seven indi­vi­du­als and accu­sed me of signing the state­ment in sup­port of “the rio­ters.” He empha­si­zed that the people who oppo­sed the rise in gas pri­ces were rio­ters. The inter­ro­gator then read the fol­lo­wing part of the state­ment: “The reck­less shoo­ting at civi­li­ans by guns pro­cu­red from the natio­nal bud­get to use for the defence of the people …” Then he pro­tes­ted that I accu­sed the regime’s forces of kil­ling people, while those were not inno­cent people but rio­ters. I told him that anyone who takes to the streets and pro­tests is a citi­zen of this nation. The police and secu­rity forces have no right to arrest people who are in the streets, call them rio­ters and then and there, con­demn them and enforce the punish­ment. The inter­ro­gator main­tai­ned: If someone who unloads a dump truck and blocks the road is not a rio­ter, who is? What to do with him? I said: People were outra­ged by the increase in gas pri­ces. It is natu­ral that they show their anger in any pos­si­ble way. The regime needs to show tolerance. The most the police have to do is to arrest those who des­troy public pro­perty and pro­vide solid evi­dence to the court. They are not allo­wed to shoot the pro­tes­ters. This is not the way to deal with riots, much less with pro­tests. He insis­ted that the police did not shoot people; the rio­ters kil­led each other. And he asked: What evi­dence do you have to show that the police shot people? I respon­ded to this bizarre logic by say­ing that, first, we do not have that many armed people. Secondly, why should people kill each other? Third, what were the police forces doing there? Isn’t it their job to take care of the people? Why didn’t they esta­blish secu­rity, rather than lea­ving people to kill 6 each other? I insis­ted that it was his obli­ga­tion to con­duct a neu­tral inves­ti­ga­tion, not to con­sider him­self a plain­tiff. When mass shoo­tings occur, the police and secu­rity forces are pre­sent on the streets to con­front the pro­tes­ters; the­re­fore the blame is on the police forces; this is the case all over the world. If they did not shoot, then they must iden­tify the cri­mi­nal. He said people have guns on them, and then to prove his claim, he tur­ned to my lawyer and asked, “Didn’t Mr. Najafi keep a gun with him? Didn’t he kill his wife?”1 My lawyer said: “No, I have said many times he did not kill his wife.” The interrogator’s remarks not only indi­ca­ted his non-neutrality but that of the regime’s pre­vai­ling argu­ment about people’s rights, free­dom and the right to pro­test. We need to cor­rect this view and logic. We need to reco­gnize the civil and poli­ti­cal rights of the citi­zens. The police must main­tain their neu­tra­lity and inte­grity in order to main­tain order. The judi­cial sys­tem, in par­ti­cu­lar, should refrain from any poli­ti­cal par­tis­anship and poli­ti­cal bias. 4. In an arti­cle publis­hed on the Kale­meh News web­site entit­led “What will become of those responsi­ble for the [Novem­ber] kil­lings and their part­ners in crime?” I wrote, “now that the govern­ment has taken responsi­bi­lity for the kil­lings, all those responsi­ble inclu­ding their part­ners in crime should be iden­ti­fied, disch­ar­ged from their posi­ti­ons, tried and con­vic­ted. Other­wise, they will com­mit more cri­mes in the future.” These sen­ten­ces are repro­du­ced in the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence report among the char­ges against me, but wit­hout any legal argu­ment and indeed with no legal evi­dence that any crime is invol­ved. Hund­reds of citi­zens were kil­led during the 2019 pro­tests, let us say two hund­red and thirty as the Isla­mic Repu­blics sour­ces have it, the aut­ho­ri­ties admit that that some of them were inno­cent, yet it is us, the cri­tics, who are now accu­sed of a kil­ling setup. Tens of thousands of police and secu­rity forces were pre­sent on the streets, yet the judi­ci­ary asks us to pro­vide proof that these forces shot at the demons­tra­tors. I ask, who are the per­sons or per­son that actually shot and kil­led hund­reds of people? Who kil­led those whom you call inno­cent vic­tims? In response to this import­ant ques­tion, the indict­ment sta­tes that due to the kil­ling sce­na­rio crea­ted by oppor­tu­nist rio­ters, the cause of death of the inno­cent vic­tims was not deter­mined. The obvious con­tra­dic­tion in this state­ment is evi­dent: the kil­ling of the inno­cents is ack­now­ledged, but at the same time those who talk about it are accu­sed of set­ting up a kil­ling sce­na­rio. More­over, why should our cri­ti­cism become an obst­a­cle to the inves­ti­ga­tion to deter­mine the cause of death of the inno­cent? With no fair trial, the judi­ci­ary and the intel­li­gence agen­cies achieve not­hing by making such claims! A true achie­ve­ment would be to open them­sel­ves to ques­ti­ons and to con­vince public opi­nion. To make such claims is of course to avoid a dif­fi­cult task. But when people like me talk of harsh rea­li­ties and com­plain about such con­di­ti­ons, we are requi­red to sub­mit solid evi­dence to prove them. Mean­while indi­vi­du­als who have influ­ence wit­hin power­ful lob­bies are not held accoun­ta­ble for their activi­ties, but instead, they use the judi­ci­ary as a tool to con­vict people like me. This, in addi­tion to all the pro­blems invol­ved, reve­als the fact that, com­pa­red to those who gain 1 Trans­la­tors’ note: Refers to the case of the refor­mist for­mer mayor of Tehran, who con­fes­sed to kil­ling his wife with a gun in his pos­ses­sion 7 sup­port through power­ful bodies, ordi­nary citi­zens are not equal before the law. Whe­reas, accor­ding to arti­cle 20 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, all should be equal before the law. It is such immu­nity from the law that has enab­led these people to make these irra­tio­nal claims, which leads to not­hing but injustice. It is my opi­nion that after any pro­tests and after collec­ting the dead bodies, the sce­na­rio of sta­ged kil­ling is brought onto the stage in order to blame others! This what the pro­se­cu­tor in the indict­ment sta­ted, as evi­dence of my alle­ged crime: “The accu­sed fai­led to sub­mit any proof that the Regime’s forces shot and kil­led the vic­tims of the Novem­ber 2019.” Isn’t it the responsi­bi­lity of the regime’s forces to secure the pro­tec­tion of its citi­zens? When nume­rous people are kil­led on the streets, why shouldn’t the regime iden­tify the kil­lers of those whom the state calls inno­cent? In my opi­nion, the heavy pre­sence of armed forces on the streets and a large num­ber of vic­tims is suf­fi­ci­ent proof that it was those forces who opened fire on people and shot them. If this is not the case, the rele­vant offi­ci­als and orga­niza­ti­ons should pro­vide relia­ble proof that they did not com­mit the kil­lings; other­wise the aut­ho­rity and inte­grity of the secu­rity forces will be under­mined, as it is hard to com­pre­hend how, des­pite the heavy pre­sence of secu­rity forces, others were able to com­mit the kil­lings. With respect to the con­tra­dic­tory stands of the offi­ci­als, the judiciary’s con­duct and the secu­rity agen­cies’ state­ments, it must be asked on what cri­te­ria the vic­tims were divi­ded into inno­cents and cri­mi­nals. Why were some of them cal­led mar­tyrs? And on what basis did some of them receive blood money? In which court has the cri­mi­nals’ guilt been pro­ven? Again, in my opi­nion, the state­ments by offi­ci­als, the above-mentioned evi­dence, the failure to iden­tify the per­pe­tra­tors, and the large num­ber of vic­tims, leave no doubt that the regime is responsi­ble for the kil­lings. Since the offi­ci­als have admit­ted the inno­cence of at least a num­ber of pro­tes­ters, it is an injustice not to iden­tify the per­pe­tra­tors and their part­ners in crime. In every pro­test, a num­ber of people are kil­led; this vio­lent and inhu­mane way of acting must end at some point. There must be a turn toward civi­lity, the rule of law, the reco­gni­tion of human rights and free­doms and ways of gover­nance that can ful­fil people’s demands. Other­wise, there will be no peace and sta­bi­lity in our country.
  • 5. Accor­ding to Arti­cle 23 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, any attempt to scru­ti­nize an individual’s belief is for­bid­den. Yet Mr Inter­ro­gator lists as one of my cri­mes, a refe­rence to a state­ment I had signed with a group of reli­gious refor­mists, under the title “We request the sepa­ra­tion of state and reli­gion in Iran.” He quo­tes this from the state­ment: “We, the under­si­gned, believe that the Isla­mic Repu­blic and the Guar­di­anship of the Isla­mic Jurists are a fai­led expe­ri­ence.” In response, I said that, based on my forty-two years of exper­tise, know­ledge and scho­lar­ship in Isla­mic stu­dies, I believe in the sepa­ra­tion of reli­gion and state. The track record of the Isla­mic Repu­blic and other reli­gious govern­ments has not been great. It has not been able to deli­ver reform, hap­pi­ness, pros­pe­rity and gene­ral satis­fac­tion to the people. Yes, I regard the expe­ri­ence of the Isla­mic Repu­blic and rule by the Isla­mic Jurist (Vilayat-e Faqih) in lieu of the rule of law, as a failure. Just look at the sta­tus of women and the mino­ri­ties who have been fight­ing for their basic human rights but have always faced the 8 hard bar­rier of Isla­mic juris­pru­dence, remo­val of which requi­res amen­ding the Con­sti­tu­tion. I believe reli­gion is not a source of legis­la­tion, and the era during which the jurists made laws has come to an end. The law is not part of the Shari‘a, and the admi­nis­tra­tion of the coun­try under Isla­mic juris­pru­dence, which requi­res the Rule of the Isla­mic Jurist, has not brought us hap­pi­ness. Nume­rous ulama and Shi‘a jurists were them­sel­ves oppo­sed to the rule of jurists. The inter­ro­gator then asked me, “So, you don’t believe in Vilayat-e-Faqih?” I said, no I don’t. I could have refu­sed to reply, as his ques­tion was unla­w­ful and against the Con­sti­tu­tion. Howe­ver, because the Vilayat-e-Faqih is among the big poli­ti­cal chal­len­ges in our society, I respon­ded. Alre­ady, in vio­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tio­nal pro­hi­bi­tion on inqui­si­tion, the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence in its report had stres­sed this issue among my accu­sa­ti­ons; the exact sen­tence in that report is as fol­lows: “Vas­maghi on 18/9 [9/Dec/2019], through her appro­val of the con­tent of the state­ment, has con­fes­sed to her lack of belief in Vilayat-e Faqih.” It seems that in the view of the inter­ro­gator, as well as that of the Minis­try of Intel­li­gence, not belie­ving in Vilayat-e Faqih con­sti­tu­tes a crime. This view stems from the par­tis­anship of those intel­li­gence bodies and their lack of know­ledge of legal prin­ci­ples, inclu­ding what con­sti­tu­tes a crime. Vilayat-e Faqih is neit­her a reli­gious belief and nor does not belie­ving in it con­sti­tu­tes a crime. If judi­cial offi­ci­als knew anything about law, they would fol­low the legal points, at least super­fi­ci­ally. I believe the most import­ant means to defend free­dom is having free­dom of speech and thought. I have always tried to stick to my beliefs. Each and every one of us has a duty to defend our rights and free­doms against any vio­la­tion. Our free­dom is not in the hands of others to offer, it is in our hands and we must pro­tect it.
  • 6. Ano­ther accu­sa­tion against me was that I did inter­views with Persian-language media out­lets outs­ide Iran. As I said, accor­ding to the laws of the Isla­mic Repu­blic, I have the right to free­dom of speech. I am a wri­ter, a scho­lar and I have the right to talk to any media to express my opi­nion and thoughts. What is the legal pro­blem here? The inter­ro­gator said: There is no legal pro­blem. It is the con­tent that is pro­ble­ma­tic. In addi­tion, the Natio­nal Secu­rity Coun­cil of Iran has issued a direc­tive to ban people from tal­king to for­eign media. I retor­ted: This is a direc­tive not a law, and its con­tent is in vio­la­tion of the prin­ci­ples sta­ted in our Con­sti­tu­tion and against our civil rights. Arti­cle 71 of the Con­sti­tu­tion reco­gnizes only the Parliament’s com­pe­tence to make the law of the land. If there is a legal issue with what I said in those talks, let me know so that I can respond. He didn’t pur­sue the point. It should be noted that the issue of my inter­views with the media, while this act is not legally con­side­red a crime, was also rai­sed in the Minis­try of Intelligence’s report. The Isla­mic Repu­blic its­elf has dozens of media out­lets outs­ide Iran and has spo­ken with the citi­zens of other coun­tries. Today’s world is the world of media. To restrict access to the media, cen­so­ring people and their opi­ni­ons, is in vio­la­tion of free­dom of speech and the right of free access to infor­ma­tion. The judi­ci­ary and secu­rity agen­cies are not legally per­mit­ted to enforce such restrictions.
  • 7. Ano­ther accu­sa­tion against me was the state­ment I had made regar­ding nego­tia­ti­ons with the United Sta­tes. The inter­ro­gator, while insul­ting the U.S. Pre­si­dent Trump and using words that were not wor­thy of an offi­cial of the judi­ci­ary, said, “Did you say that we should nego­tiate with the f***ing Trump?” as though he was the one to nego­tiate with Trump. I said that the govern­ment has the right to nego­tiate or not. We can­not force anyone to do so. As 9 you are free to express your views, I am also free to express mine. If one day, my like­min­ded col­lea­gues replace you in your capa­city, would it be fair and accep­ta­ble to pro­se­cute you because of your oppo­si­tion and your opi­nion? The inter­ro­gator con­ti­nued: “Trump is a fool.” I respon­ded, “But you should not be a fool when dea­ling with a fool. A wise human being always acts wisely. People are in des­pair and in hardship. The solu­tion to our pro­blem is even­tually nego­tia­tion. You say Trump is a fool. What about Obama and Clin­ton? Were they fools too?” It was quite clear he had ente­red into this fruit­less and use­l­ess debate full of bias. Signing this state­ment is also men­tio­ned in the Minis­try of Intelligence’s report, while this argu­ment is not legally con­side­red a crime. My final word is that I desire to see reforms in our coun­try and wish for the pros­pe­rity, free­dom and lofti­ness of my home­land. I will do my utmost in this endea­vour. I will con­ti­nue speaking and wri­t­ing. In this noble cause, I am not afraid to be tried and sen­tenced to jail. We are all to blame for the cur­rent cri­ti­cal situa­tion. And all of us should try our best to change things for the better.
  • I find human dignity in free­dom. I will not cen­sor mys­elf and will not allow my free­dom to be tramp­led on. I want to live free even in a cell. The high walls and iron gates of pri­son will not bring me down.
  • I shall sub­mit to love’s noose I live for the Fri­end – wha­te­ver will be will be Shame on whoever accepts the way of bon­dage Honour goes to whoever calls for freedom
  • Respect­fully, Sedig­heh Vas­maghi May 23, 2020

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