Arash Sigarchi

Arash Sigarchi

Location: Tehran, Iran
35° 41' 46.3776" N, 51° 25' 22.602" E
Status: Released
Arrested between 16 Jan 2005 and 16 Mar 2005
Campaign Site:

From HRW:  Arash Sigarchi, former editor of the daily Gilan Emrouz, maintains a blog called Panjareh Eltehab (“Window of Anguish”) from his home in the northern city of Rasht. His online writings were often critical of the government and he frequently protested the detention of other Iranian bloggers. On January 16, 2005, days after he had given interviews to BBC World Service and the U.S.-based Radio Farda, he was summoned to court and interrogated. The next day, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence arrested him.

On February 2, the revolutionary court in the northern province of Gilan sentenced Sigarchi to fourteen years in prison, but made its ruling public only on February 22. Charges included espionage, “aiding and abating hostile governments and opposition groups” by giving interviews to the U.S.-based Radio Farda, endangering national security, and “insulting Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.” The court based its decision on a report by the Intelligence Ministry agents who arrested Sigarchi.

Sigarchi’s trial violated international standards for fair trials. It was held behind closed doors and in the absence of his lawyer—indeed, he was not allowed to meet with his lawyer for months after his arrest.

Sigarchi’s lawyer, Mohammad Saifzadeh, told Human Rights Watch that his client’s summons, arrest, and the search and seizure of his personal documents were marked by numerous irregularities and illegal actions. Authorities released him on March 16, 2005, after he posted 1 billion rials ($125,000) in bail. He has appealed his conviction.229

After his release, Sigarchi told reporters that the only evidence presented against him was "a few selected postings from my blog, selected transcripts of my interviews with Radio Farda reporters, and a few of my journalistic writings… During the trial, I did not have the right to a lawyer. The judge and the court officer explicitly told me there was no need. They encouraged me not to hire a lawyer so my problem could be resolved more easily. But after they issued my sentence, I asked my brother to hire a lawyer."

Thereafter, Sigarchi was represented by three prominent Iranian human rights lawyers: Shirin Ebadi, Parviz Jahangard, and Mohammad Seifzadeh.

On June 9, 2005, appeal hearing, Sigarchi’s lawyers rejected all the charges against him and argued that the lower court’s decision was illegal and unsupported by any evidence. The appeals court has yet to issue its ruling.

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