Call on Iranian authorities to drop charges on two musicians and a filmmaker

15 January 2016

Human rights organisations Freemuse and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, along with 14 other organisations, protest the 2013 imprisonment and 2015 sentencing of musicians Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, and call on the head of the judiciary and other Iranian authorities to drop the charges against them.

Mehdi Rajabian, a musician and founder of BargMusic, an alternative music distributor in Iran, along with his filmmaker brother Hossein Rajabian and musician Emadi, appeared at Branch 54 of the Tehran Province Appeals Court on 22 December 2015 to appeal a May 2015 decision sentencing all three artists to six years in prison for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state” through the production and promotion of underground music. They were also fined 200 million tomans (about USD 66,650) each.

A decision is set to be made by the appellate court in January 2016 by presiding Judge Babaei.

Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov said: “No doubt the latest crackdowns on freedom of expression in Iran reflects the internal conflicts between President Hassan Rouhani and the influential conservative groups – not least the so-called revolutionary guards, who object to any cultural reforms and seem to control the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Whatever credibility Iran gained through entering into a dialogue on their nuclear programme is lost by their cruel practices of arresting and intimidating artists, media and civil society.”

The letter was sent to Ayatollah Sadeq Larijiani at the Office of the Head of the Judiciary and other Iranian governmental bodies on 15 January 2016.

An excerpt of the letter follows:

The three artists were arrested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization on October 5, 2013 without being formally charged. They were held at an undisclosed location for 18 days during which Mehdi Rajabian reportedly was subject to repeated torture. All three were put under intense pressure to make false televised confessions. In late October, the three were moved to Ward 2-A of Evin Prison where they were held in solitary confinement and subject to unnecessarily cruel treatment. As an example, the guards would allegedly turn on the air coolers of their cells during cold winter weather. Emadi was released on bail after more than 40 days at Evin Prison. Mehdi Rajabian and Hossein Rajabian spent more than two months at Evin Prison before they were released on bail.

At the time of the arrest, Mehdi Rajabian, who plays Sehtar, a traditional Iranian instrument, was working on a new album entitled, “The history of Iran as told by Sehtar”. The Revolutionary Guards effectively shut down the project by confiscating the recordings, shutting down the BargMusic website and closing their studio. The Revolutionary Guards also seized the three artist’s mobile phones, ID-cards and passports. The artists are banned from leaving Iran.

The appeal hearing comes during an intensified crackdown on arts and culture in Iran as the country approaches Parliamentary elections in February 2016. Arrests are growing in number and the judiciary has been issuing harsher sentences.

We therefore ask that you give this issue your immediate attention and do all that you can to ensure that all charges are dropped against Mehdi Rajabian, Yousef Emadi and Hossein Rajabian, and that all artists detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are released immediately and unconditionally in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a party.

Freemuse and the International Campaign for Human Rights, along with the Arterial Network,, Art Moves Africa, Centre for Art and Politics, the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance, the European Council of Artists, IG Freie Theaterarbeit and European Off Network EON, the Index on Censorship, the International Committee for Artists Freedom, Latin American Network on Art for Social Transformation, Observatoire de la liberté de création, PEN America, PEN International and Siyah Bant, call for the urgent attention of Iranian authorities on this case and drop the charges against Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi.

» UPDATE: This post was updated to reflect that additional organisations have signed the letter. A total of 16 organisations have now signed the letter.

» Read the full letter

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