Peyman Aref was transferred back to the general ward 350 in Evin prison today after being held for one day in a hospital, reported a close source in Iran. Aref, a student activist, journalist, blogger, and a member of the Iran National Front, was transferred to the hospital on March 24 following the deterioration of his health from a hunger strike he had launched on March 19 in Evin prison to protest his continued detention despite the fact he had posted bail. He reportedly ended his hunger strike upon his return to prison today. Aref was arrested by Iranian security agents for the sixth time since the aftermath of the 2009 Presidential election on the morning of March 14.
Peyman Aref’s Roller Coaster Ride with the Iranian Judiciary
The distinguished University of Tehran student banned from his studies (a “starred” student) was first arrested on June 18, 2009. Peyman Aref had been busy serving his military service in the Training and Studies office of the police force in the province of Gilan. He was transferred to Evin prison in Tehran to serve an 18-month prison sentence related to a previous case file he had opened for giving a speech in 2002 at the University of Tehran in support of Dr. Aghajari (also re: Amnesty). The prison sentence was issued in 2005 by Haddad, the [former] head judge of branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. However, according to reports, the Iranian authorities had told Aref that his arrest and imprisonment in June 2009 was unrelated to the 2005 case file.
In early March 2010 Aref was issued a sentence of one year in prison and 74 lashes by Judge PirAbbasi in branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court. Aref was also issued a lifetime ban from journalism and participating in any political activities. He was tried on two counts of “Membership in anti-regime groups”, “Propaganda against the regime (based on his membership in the Iran National Front)”, and “Insulting the President (based on an open letter he had written to Ahmadinejad in May 2009)”. The court acquitted Aref on one count of “Membership in an anti-regime group” and found him guilty for the two other charges. Right after the issuing of his sentence Aref was released on a bail of approximately $100 thousand USD, but his time out of prison was short lived. He was arrested for the second time on March 15, 2010, just before the Persian New Year. However, he was released in April 2010 on a conditional medical leave because he had suffered a heart attack in prison.
In December 2010, Peyman Aref received an anonymous phone call from a person who warned him to end his activities with the Iran National Front or he and other members of the group would have to pay heavy consequences. The person on the phone accused Iran National Front of allowing individuals connected with the MEK to have presence during the group’s meetings. Aref denied the allegations and stated that the group’s sessions were open to the public. The anonymous person on the phone threatened to raid their meeting spot, the home of a member of the Iran National Front.
On the morning of January 16, 2011 Iranian security agents attacked Peyman Aref’s home and broke his front door but failed to arrest him because Aref was not home.
Peyman Aref was arrested for the third time in February 2011 and transferred to Evin prison’s general ward 350. According to his wife Samira Jamishidi, her husband’s74-lashing sentence was executed on October 9 2011, after her husband’s one-year prison sentence had come to an end and he was about to be released. Aref’s back was reportedly severely damaged and wounded as a result of the lashes. Jamshidi was present when Aref was lashed.
Peyman Aref was arrested for the fourth time at the Behesht Zahra cemetery on October 30, 2011 along with fellow activists Asal Esmaeilzadeh and Sharar Konoor Tabrizi. The incident occurred at Neda Agha Soltan’s grave site. No charges were announced at the time of the arrests and temporary detentions. The activists were at the cemetery to pay their respects to Agha Soltan, the young Iranian woman who was shot dead in a June 2009 post-election protest in Iran. According to reports, the three activists were taken to a security police station in Shahr-e Rey where they were held over night and released the next day. On November 1, 2011 Aref, Esmaeilzadeh, and Konoor Tabrizi visited the Evin prison Prosecutor’s office to look into the details of their new case files opened after their arrest. At the end of the visit, Aref encountered his fifth arrest at the Prosecutor’s office. Esmaeilzadeh and Konoor Tabrizi were permitted to go home.
Reports indicate that Aref was being punished for speaking out about the 74 brutal lashings that he endured in prison before his release in October 2011. Upon his release in December 2011, Aref filed a formal complaint against two state-run media publications, Raja News and Bulletin News, which had written fabricated reports about the lashings he had endured. Iranian authorities warned Aref to not follow up on his complaints or he would have to face serious consequences.
Peyman Aref was summoned to the Evin prison Prosecutor’s office in January 2012, but, according to HRANA, Aref was busy pursuing his university dissertation defense and did not have the opportunity to visit the court house. He was eventually arrested on the morning of March 14, just before the Persian New Year again.