Iran: Prominent human rights defender and writer Emadeddin Baghi, whose house was raided, banned from travel

16.05.21

Human rights defender, lawyer and writer Emadeddin Baghi, an advisory board member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), remains banned from travel after more than a decade and half, and electronic devices confiscated during a raid on his home in January 2021 have not been returned. Baghi, the founder and president of the Committee for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights, received the 2009 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the 2005 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic, and several other awards. Since the 1980s, he has peacefully called for the improvement of the human rights situation in Iran.

On 28 January 2021, Baghi’s house in the capital, Tehran was raided by a dozen people, 11 men and one woman, who entered his home without a judicial search warrant. They confiscated his mobile phones and personal computers containing his writings, on which he spent many years of hard work. Despite his constant communications with the relevant security authorities, they have refused to return his personal equipment.

In statements that he made on the evening of the same day to "Ensaf News", a news website licensed inside Iran, he said, "They came to our door in the morning, called and said ‘we have a letter from the Public Prosecutor's office’ ... I thought that their visit was illegal and according to the Judicial Procedures Law, they do not have the right to conduct this search because I have not been charged and there is no background." He added that they took away "a computer, a laptop and three phones. They had a printed sheet containing the serial numbers of these devices, indicating that they may have been able to obtain the IP addresses of these devices in cooperation with the Ministry of Communication."

He continued, "They promised to return the computers and phones in the afternoon, but unfortunately they did not fulfill their promise. I told them this is my privacy. All my writings, topics and research are on this computer and it is a crime for any judicial or security official to see them."

Baghi also gave an interview on 29 January 2021 with BBC Farsi TV about the raid on his home and the confiscation of his electronic equipment.

On 01 February 2021, Baghi wrote on his Telegram account: "Unfortunately, and also against the law, they have taken control of my digital equipment and changed the password for my e-mail and website."

On 06 February 2021, he wrote an article on Telegram entitled, "The subject of searches and the abuse of power" in which he stated the following, "These searches have had long-term devastating psychological effects. For this reason, the law does not allow searches except in special cases and under certain circumstances, otherwise, a practical search is a severe crime." He also said, "They seized the proceeds of more than twenty years of my work, and all the digital documents of my wife's publications, in contravention of the law ... and destroyed my 20-year-old archives, which is against the law and is subject to trial." In his article, Baghi also mentioned that the arbitrary search was in violation of several articles of the Judicial Procedure Law, including Articles 56 and 146.

At 59 years of age, he has served several years in prison since 2000, including a six-month term that began on 28 December 2009, when he was arrested during a wave of arrests with hundreds of pro-reform citizens after widespread protests in Tehran. During his detention, he spent five out of the six months in solitary confinement, suffering from heart and breathing problems, as well as severe back pain. He was released on bail on 23 June 2010, for health reasons, after paying bail of about USD$200,000.

On 21 September 2010, Baghi was summoned by Branch 1057 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court regarding the closure in 2009 of the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights. He was then informed that a month earlier, on 17 August 2010, he had been sentenced by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court to six years in prison on charges of "propaganda against the state" and "colluding against the security of the regime" in relation to an interview which was aired on BBC.

On 27 July 2010, Baghi was also sentenced by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court to one year of prison and a five-year ban on civil activities in another case for heading the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights.  

He was kept out of prison on bail until 05 December 2010 when he was arrested again, without being allowed family visits, despite evidence that his health remained poor.

He was released on 20 June 2011, and has been banned from travel ever since. The total number of years of imprisonment handed down against him is 18 and a half years in various cases related to his peaceful work in the field of human rights. However, due to several cases being overturned on appeal, he endured a total of five years in prison, including many months in solitary confinement.

On 04 October 2004, Iranian officials confiscated Baghi’s passport at Tehran’s airport, and prevented him from leaving Iran. Without giving an explanation, a state security agent informed him that a court order barred him from traveling out of the country. He was scheduled to receive the Civil Courage Prize from the Northcote Parkinson Fund, which honors “steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk,” at a ceremony in New York held on 12 October 2004.

Baghi is married to Fatima Kamali, and they have three daughters, including Maryam Baghi. In 2007, Fatima Kamali and Maryam Baghi were sentenced to three years in prison (suspended) and five years on probation for attending a human rights training workshop in Dubai three years earlier.

 Baghi wrote many books on religious, historical and social issues, and worked as a university professor for eight years before he was removed under pressure from the authorities. He has since been banned from teaching at universities. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), in cooperation with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, printed his book "The Right to Life" in Arabic, which was translated by Sadiq Al-Abadi and published in 2008. The 145-page book focuses on finding a way out of applying the death penalty, including three chapters, in which the author suggests alternatives to the death penalty.

GCHR condemns in the strongest terms the continued persecution of prominent human rights defender Emadeddin Baghi including the ban on his travel, and calls on the authorities to stop targeting him and allow him to travel as well as to return all his electronic devices to him immediately. Baghi is a courageous defender who spent years defending the rights of forgotten prisoners and rescued many people from the death penalty, providing voluntary aid to dozens of families who were able to save their children due to his personal efforts, which calls for celebrating and honouring him, not restricting his efforts.