Career

Satirist posting on Facebook

Charges

Conspiring against national security
Insulting President Ahmadinejad
Insulting the sacred
Insulting the Supreme Leader
Moharebeh (waging war against God)

Sentence

Initial sentence of five and a half years in prison, 74 lashes and two years in exile. In 2015, Babadi was sentenced to an additional seven years' imprisonment for new charges, which the appeals court overturned.

Date of Birth

9/1978

Status

In exile

Soheil Babadi In exile

Soheil Babadi, a computer engineer, was arrested on May 22, 2012 by the Revolutionary Guards after he posted satirical comments on Facebook. The Revolutionary Court sentenced him to five and a half years in prison, 74 lashes and two years in exile. In September 2015, Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Babadi to an additional seven years in prison on new charges. The appeals court cleared him of the latter charges and upheld the lower court’s verdict. While in prison, Babadi was beaten and mistreated. In March 2017, he was sent into exile after serving his mandatory time in prison.

Soheil Babadi, a computer engineer, was arrested on May 22, 2012 after he posted satirical comments on Facebook. He was held for more than 200 days in Ward 2-A of Tehran’s Evin Prison, which is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). During that time he was tortured and denied basic rights, according to an open letter he wrote from prison on September 7, 2013 [Persian link].

There are many examples of the cruelty and arbitrary nature of Iran’s judiciary system and its security agencies, and its use of terror to govern. But Babadi’s case also provides a good example of the Islamic Republic’s irrationality. He was charged with grave crimes, including “conspiracy against national security,” for writing a satirical piece that could not possibly justify such a charge. The words of his letter provide a vivid picture of how he was treated.

“In May 2011, I posted 10 short pieces of satire on a Facebook page called the ‘Campaign to Remind Shiites about Imam Naghi [the 10th Shia imam]’ without using any insulting words,” he wrote in his letter. “A year later I was arrested by the IRGC’s Intelligence Corps without a warrant and was held in Ward 2-A, the IRGC’s exclusive detention center, and beaten and interrogated for 24 hours.”

“Then,” the letter continues, “someone named Ghena’at Kar (from Branch 3 of the Security Court) formally read the charges against me, including ‘insulting the Prophet Mohammad,’ ‘insulting the sacred,’ ‘assembly and collusion,’ ‘insulting the Supreme Leader,’ ‘propaganda against the state,’ ‘membership to  a group planning to overthrow the state’ ‘and acting against national security’— all for writing 10 jokes on Facebook.

“The Saudis Paid for the Satire!”

“In the course of my detention, five times the interrogator and two other men took me, blindfolded and handcuffed, to a room outside the detention center and beat me mercilessly to [make me] confess that I had received money from the Saudi government to insult the 10th Shia imam. 

“I was interrogated while blindfolded in the corner of a room. The agent wanted me to confess to the charges against me, and when I refused he severely beat me. I was constantly under psychological pressure as the agents probed into my personal life and tried to accuse me of sexual relations with friends and relatives, even with my sister-in-law, and even of homosexual relations with one of my friends, Mostafa. But they didn’t succeed and kept me in solitary confinement for 225 days.”

His friends and family were unaware of his whereabouts for two days after his arrest. They looked for him at all possible locations linked to the intelligence and security services. On the second day of the search, the Third Branch of Shahid Moghaddas Court told them that his name appears on the list of people under interrogations with them, but refused to provide any further information and did not allow him to have a telephone conversation with his family. During the next couple of months, his family’s attempts to pursue his case was repeatedly unsuccessful.

In January 2013, Babadi was transferred from Ward 2A to Ward 350 at Evin Prison and then to Rajaei Shahr Prison. Later he was again moved between these two prisons. In February 2014, after six hearings, the court announced that the prosecution process had come to an end. It was expected that a verdict would be handed down by mid-March. However, it was delayed and later announced in July 2014 — two years after his arrest.

The lower Revolutionary Court sentenced Babadi to five and a half years in prison, 74 lashes and two years in exile. He had to wait for more than a year for a final verdict. In the meantime, he was subjected to another trial on new charges. In September 2015, Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Babadi to an additional seven years in prison for “assembly and collusion against national security” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.” The appeals court, however, cleared him of the latter charges.

Caught in “Black Thursday”

While he was waiting for court rulings, Babadi was among a group of inmates injured when guards attacked prisoners at Ward 350 of Evin Prison on April 17, 2014. In what became known as “Evin’s Black Thursday,” guards destroyed the prisoners’ belongings, tore their clothes, cut wires to electric equipment, destroyed food and culinary items, broke the dishes in the ward’s kitchen and confiscated prisoners’ writings. Thirty-one political prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement. Soheil Babadi suffered injuries to his arm and his neck. According to his wife Fatemeh Madadi, the torture that he suffered during interrogation also left him with a bad back and kidney problems [Persian link].

When Babadi was arrested, his wife was pregnant, but, due to psychological pressures and shock, she miscarried and lost her unborn baby 

On January 6, 2017, having served his sentence, authorities transferred Babadi from Rajaei Shahr Prison to the Security Police Detention Center in Karaj near Tehran. On January 25, they sent him into exile to the town of Bashagard in the southeastern province of Hormozgan.

According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), [Persian link] Soheil Babadi should have been released from prison in June 2015 in accordance with Iranian laws, but judiciary officials refused to release him. They provided no reasons for keeping him detained. 

Updated: November 17, 2017

Sources:

رنجنامه یکی از کاربران فیسبوک از بند ۳۵۰ زندان اوین , Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), August 28, 2013

“Prison guards raiding ward 350 of Evin Prison,” Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), April 19, 2014

“A complete report about Soheil Babadi, imprisoned cyber activist,” Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), November 27, 2014

“Soheil Babadi: 40 Months of Detention with no Imprisonment Sentence,” Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), August 13, 2015

“Soheil Babadi’s Case Sent To Branch 36 Of Appeals Court,” Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), January 13, 2016

فاطمه مددی همسر سهیل بابادی: پنج‌شنبه‌های سیاهِ همسرم ادامه دارد ,Campaign for Defending Political and Civil Prisoners, May 18, 2016

“Man Who Was Imprisoned in Iran for Posting Jokes on Facebook Denied Timely Appeal Verdict,” Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), July 8, 2016

زندانی عقیدتی سهیل بابادی پس از تحمل دوران زندان به بشاگرد تبعید شد , Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), January 31, 2017

“Facebook Satirist Exiled after Serving Prison Sentence,” IranWire, February 2, 2017

“Soheil Babadi Released from Prison and Sent to Exile,” Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), March 26, 2017

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