Citizen journalist and Telegram activist
Insulting Ayatollah Khomeini
Insulting the Supreme Leader
Propaganda against the regime
12 years in prison
Date of Birth
Mohammad Mohajer, a citizen journalist and a Telegram channel administrator, was arrested in Tehran on September 10th 2016. Two other Telegram channel admins, Alireza Tavakoli and Mohammad Mehdi Zamanzadeh, were both arrested prior to this, on September 3. The three men were later tried together.
“These guys were posting articles and cartoons on Facebook and Telegram that criticized the political and religious situation, and also shared material from others,” an informed source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “But most of the accusations against them are related to their posts on a Telegram channel where political and religious topics were discussed.”
They were held in Evin Prison’s Ward 209, controlled by the Intelligence Ministry, where they were interrogated without access to a lawyer. They were then transferred to Ward 8 of the prison after two months in solitary confinement, despite the fact that the arrest warrants were only valid for three days before the judiciary pressed charges.
A source close to the defendants told the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) that during repeated interrogations, the interrogators and intelligence agents pressured the accused to answer questions in a manner that would portray them as supporters of a particular counter-revolutionary group. When asked about the purpose of that line of questioning, the source said that intelligence agents hoped to use the confessions to present the accused as an organized group, and to implicate their friends and acquaintances as part of a propaganda campaign. The source said the three men refused to cooperate and bow to pressure to incriminate themselves.
During their time at Ward 209, the defendants were allowed to call their families once a week and talk to them for only five minutes. According to the source who spoke to HRANA, the intelligence agents repeatedly told the families of the accused that if the three men cooperated and made the confessions they were asked to, they would soon be freed.
After the interrogations came to a close and the Examining Magistrate Ali Ghena’at finished questioning them, the charge of acting to overthrow the Islamic Republic was dropped due to both lack of evidence and the fact that the defendants refused to confess to such a crime.
On April 10th 2017, the three defendants were tried at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Abolghasem Salavati, infamous for his harsh sentences and his disregard for the rights of defendants. Each of the defendants were sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of blasphemy (five years), insulting the Supreme Leader (two years) and assembly and collusion against national security (five years).
The Five-Minute Trial
The hearing before Branch 36 of the Revolutionary Court of Appeals took place on August 2nd, after the defendants appealed the verdict of Judge Salavati. At the trial, which lasted only about five minutes, Judge Hassan Babaee, another Iranian judge accused of gross human rights violations, did not allow the three defendants or their lawyers to speak. He also told them that they should have written out their defenses and notes and sent them to court before the hearing.
"You are apostates and anti-revolutionaries,” he reportedly told the defendants at the hearing. “I wonder why they have not yet executed you!"
The persecution and prosecution of these three young defendants, all under 24 when they were arrested, was not an isolated incident. The sentencing of the three was followed by the arrests of least 12 Telegram channel administrators in March 2017. Many observers believed that the arrests were part of a larger agenda adopted by Iran’s hardliner factions in the run-up to presidential and local council elections that took place in May.
Initially it was unclear who had ordered the arrests of the administrators, and some media and Iranian lawmakers pointed the finger at President Rouhani’s administration, and in particular, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi. But on April 5th, Alavi announced that the government was not behind the arrests, and had not supported them. President Rouhani confirmed this on April 10th. This led to verbal clashes between Iran’s judiciary and executive branches.
Regardless, Mohammad Mohajer and his two co-defendants are now serving their 12-year prison sentences.