Oct. 16, 2020
15 months imprisonment
Disturbing public opinion
Kavoos Basmenji, an Iranian public health activist, was transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran on October 1, 2020, on the charge of “disturbing the public mind.”
Iran's Ministry of Health and Medical Education filed a legal complaint against Kavoos Basmenji for carrying out an interview with Shargh newspaper. In this interview, Basmenji spoke about violations carried out by a prominent Iranian pharmaceutical company.
Basmenji was charged with “disturbing the public mind.” He was convicted on the basis of an interview he carried out with Shargh about the unauthorized import of a drug suspected of causing cancer.
According to the court’s verdict, which was published on social media, the legal representative of the Ministry of Health claimed in court that what Kavoos Basmenji had said during the interview was detrimental to the “effective and unprecedented actions of the Ministry of Health” as part of the national plan to control blood pressure. At the same time, he called Basmenji’s remarks “slander” against high-ranking ministry officials.
Basmenji was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by a criminal court in Tehran province.
The controversial interview which led to the legal charge against Basmenji and his eventual prison sentence was published on July 4, 2019m under the title of “Behind the Scenes of a Carcinogenic Drug”, in the “Society” section of Shargh newspaper.
Samira Hosseini, the author of the news report, wrote about imports of the drug Losartan, which is a medication mainly used to control blood pressure. According to the report, Losartan had previously been categorized as carcinogenic, and as such, for about six months before the report was released, its use had been banned in most countries around the world. However, about two days before Shargh published the news report, Iran imported the active ingredient for the production of Losartan with the official permission of the Food and Drug Administration and the Ministry of Health.
The Shargh news report also stated that, following investigations by its reporters, the Ministry of Health announced that it would be recalling and collecting Losartan from the domestic market. However, field surveys by the newspaper's reporters showed that no letters had been received by the relevant drug companies.
In part of this news report, Basmenji spoke about the details of this pharmaceutical violation, and provided information about the companies that had imported the drug and their connections to each other. The report went on to say that the investigations showed there is a hidden "mafia" that has strong ties to high-ranking officials within Iran's food and drug organizations.
Although Basmenji did not specifically name the company that had imported the drugs, he told Shargh newspaper that: “A number of people have been involved in the import of this drug, one of whom is the current head of the Ministry of Health.”
Dr Kavoos Basmenji is a pharmacist and a public health media activist He previously worked as editor-in-chief of the Sepid weekly journal.