Seyed Hadi Kasaeizadeh, a journalist and editor-in-chief of the journal Jame’e Khabar, who was charged by the Prosecutor's Office of Tehran for posting a selfie with a cow on his Instagram page, has been served with an order halting his prosecution.
In 2016, Kasaeizadeh was charged with “publishing lies with the intention of disturbing the public mind” and “insulting government officials” for posting the selfie.
After four years, Kasaeizadeh’s case was closed on September 23, 2020, after Branch 6 of the Criminal Courts of Tehran issued an order to halt legal proceedings against him due to the absence of a private plaintiff in the case.
In 2016, Kasaeizadeh was summoned to Branch 2 of the Culture and Media Prosecutor’s Office. He later spoke to the journal Jame’e Khabar about his summons, saying on June 7, 2020, that: “The head judge of the branch was Bijan Ghasemzadeh. A strong, athletic man with cauliflower ears and drooping eyes who didn’t say much and wanted to convict you as soon as you entered his office.”
Kasaeizadeh added: “I didn't know what crime I had committed. When I entered Judge Ghasemzadeh’s office, he placed a form in front of me and said, 'Answer this! It says there that you published a selfie with a cow on your personal Instagram page which is considered to be an insult.'"
Kasaeizadeh continued to speak about what happened during the hearing, saying: “When I defended myself, [the judge] picked up the form and went to the office of Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, the Prosecutor General of Tehran, to get directions on what to do. He would then come back to the hearing. He did this several times during the hearing. It was as if they were working together so that they could file a legal case against me on whatever grounds were possible.”
Kasaeizadeh was eventually released later that day, on a bail of 10 million tomans, until the end of the legal proceedings against him.
“Finally, he [Ghasemzadeh] issued a bail of 50 million tomans for my release. I protested against this. How could a selfie with a cow on Instagram require a bail of 50 million tomans? I somehow managed to bargain with him and he reduced my bail to 10 million tomans.”
And now – four years after the legal case was initially filed, on September 23 – Kasaeizadeh has learned that the legal proceedings against him have been halted.
The court order in Kasaeizadeh’s case, which was published on September 21, 2020, states: “In accordance with Article 104 of the Islamic Penal Codes and the 2020 legal reforms concerning the reduction of the punishment of imprisonment, which states that offenses covered by Articles 609 and 698 should be considered pardonable offenses, the defendant’s prosecution is subject to a legal complaint from a private plaintiff. Therefore, under the terms of Article 104 of the Islamic Penal Codes and Article 11 of the Law on the Reduction of the Punishment of Imprisonment, the court issues a 'suspension of prosecution' order due to the lack of a private plaintiff in the aforementioned case.”
Prior to this legal case, Kasaeizadeh has been summoned to court and convicted of criminal charges on several different occasions. He was sentenced to one year in prison and fined four million tomans in a case related to his disclosure of the financial corruption of the managers of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Sarmayeh Bank, based on a verdict issued by Branch 46 of the Tehran Court of Appeals in June 2020. This sentence has been referred to the Branch for the Enforcement of Sentences and is awaiting enforcement.
Bijan Ghasemzadeh, the prosecutor in Kasaeizadeh’s case, and a prominent prosecutor in a number of other legal cases against journalists and media activists, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the Iranian Judiciary for financial corruption in September 2020.
In an interview with Jame’e Khabar, Seyyed Hadi Kasaeizadeh, in reference to Ghasemzadeh’s conviction of financial corruption, said: “Today, Bijan Ghasemzadeh appeared in court as a defendant. It is interesting to see that he, who prosecuted me in a legal case about a selfie that I took with a cow from over four years ago, which is still an open case, is now the one who is facing legal prosecution.”