Dear Friends and Supporters!
This is a cry for help!!
This is a cry for help!!
One and half years ago today (exactly 548 days ago and counting) my wife, Afarin Neyssari, and I were arrested by the IRGC’s Intelligence Service and put in their notorious detention center within the Evin Prison compound. Last week I was sentenced to a total of 27 years in prison (which is 50% more than the maximum number of years for each conviction!), and Afarin was sentenced to 16 years. In addition, Afarin and I were sentenced to 74 and 124 lashes, respectively; as well as a cumulative = 10billion Rials in cash fines (given today’s exchange rate this is roughly $250,000!) And if that wasn’t enough, my US citizenship has been declared “null & void” and ALL my Iranian property will be confiscated and sold.
Since we are not guilty of ANY one of the charges, we foolishly hoped that by staying quiet and avoiding media coverage, perhaps, we had a chance of resolving the situation in court; especially since the “investigative judge” (magistrate stationed at Evin Prison) had dropped the espionage charges under which we were originally accused of. But the ruling (widely believed to be dictated by the IRGC) handed down by Judge Salavati dispelled any illusions of fairness, justice, legality and/or independence. It is now clear that without your ACTIVE intervention, we have almost no chance of being freed anytime soon, if ever. (remember: I’m 56 years old.)
Despite my lack of information in prison, in my opinion, the most telling one of our convictions is the ruling was the enforcement of Article 989 of the Iranian Civil Code dating back to 1925. Note that I was convicted of this charge without even being officially charged with it; i.e. nobody new about this particular charge until after the conviction. According to the Tehran District Attorney’s press conference that was held on January 15th, 2018. I am the very first person convicted of being a dual citizen! Under this law that has never been enforced, the Iranian government has not only “nulled” my US citizenship but also expressed eagerness to confiscate and sell my home and all other real properties in Iran. According to the law, they’ll give me an unclear percent of an unclear sales price. According to the D.A. “this will serve as a warning to ALL dual citizens”. Clearly, this ruling seriously contradicts the government’s efforts to attract expat investment and brain drain reversal.
Before sharing further specifics about our ruling. I want to emphasize that despite all sorts of tricks and illicit interrogation tactics, we were ultimately acquitted of the initial charges of “espionage” and “identifying and recruiting spies” and “working with foreign governments against Iran’s interests.” Not even Judge Salavati could make such outrageous charges stick. Instead, we were convicted of the trumped-up charge of: “collusion to conspire against national security” (Article 610 of the Pena Code). This is one of the easiest ways to convict a person here, because it is the only charge for which intent, as interpreted by the judge, and not the accused’s actual action is sufficient to convict a person. Needless to say that this is the most widely used national security charge and carries a 2-5 years prison term for which I received 7.5 years!!
It is interesting to point out all evidence for the alleged “crime” (such as “showing feminist videos”, “unacceptable performance art”, “one set of email communication with Prince Klaus Foundation”) were related to AUN Gallery in which I am not a party since it is owned and operated by Afarin ONLY!
Despite the fact that I am Zoroastrian (a religion minority who is allowed by law to make and drink alcoholic beverages), I have been convicted under Article 702 to 1.5 years jail along with 74 lashes and approximately = $40,000 penalty for making wine for my personal use.
I am also convicted under Article 22 of the Anti-smuggling law to 3 years in jail and approximately = $150,000 fine “for keeping foreign alcoholic beverages smuggled into Iran.”
This is while ALL of my distilled alcoholic beverages were gifted to me by diplomat friends. It is interesting to note that the IRGC interrogators had not only stated the quantity of these bottles to be at least one third the number that I was ultimately convicted with (?!?) but also admitted to me that given the type and packaging) especially of a certain Dutch diplomatic service company that was found among my paperwork, that it was obvious to them that my alcoholic beverages were not purchased on the black market. The truth, obviously did not stop them from convicting me, which is why I implore my diplomat friends who have gifted me, even one bottle, to write a letter stating this fact.
To show how ridiculous and mal-intentional the verdict is and their desperation to maximize our jail term, only a few months ago some of our broken artifacts were analyzed by an antiquities expert. If the handful of broken ceramics were truly antiques, I would’ve been sentenced to death, which was their intention from the very first day that I was arrested. I know that because they tried to find money transfers that would be money laundering and intervention in the country’s financial system. They had, also, tried to “convince” Afarin to falsely testify against me and say that I belong to MOSAD, CIA, … that carry death sentence.
Regardless, I was charged and convicted of:
1- Keeping my father’s opium pipe as a souvenir packed away in a box in my storage house. 40 years ago my father had used it only a few times, because Parkinson’s disease was unknown in Iran.
2- Keeping 124 “inappropriate” CDs
3- Owning 6 packs of playing cards that were found in the gardener’s house outside my garden’s legal parameters. Note that playing cards can be purchased easily from any foot peddler at gas stations or traffic lights,
4- Possession of marijuana that was, again, found in the gardener’s house
Similarly unbelievable, is that Afarin was convicted of one year imprisonment and to endure 50 lashes in addition to cash fines for “showing and selling distasteful art against Islamic values”. For those of you who have visited her gallery know that this is simply not true. However, we own a few “inappropriate” art at our home which is totally legal.
In short, we were arrested wrongfully; our home and private lives were invaded and searched thoroughly; our automobile has not been returned yet, our personal items and ALL of our documents, deeds of ownership, etc. have been removed and not returned. Afarin has lost her art gallery and I have lost EVERYTHING including my home and my wealth; our impeccable reputation has been permanently tarnished; many laws were broken not only during the interrogation process, but also at trial. I will probably leave Evin Prison no younger than age 70. Our lawyers will take our case to the appeals court, but given the influence of the IRGC over the judicial system and their intent to completely ruin us for simple reason of making an example out of us (or simply enhance their hostage list), I do not expect to receive justice unless international pressure is increased effectively.
Since Afarin lives in much harsher and more restrained conditions than I, consider this cry for help to come from both of us, and please feel free to forward this letter to trustworthy individuals who you think may be able to help our cause.
January 20th, 2018