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Iran’s regime targets critics’ relatives to silence dissent
August 4, 2020

Iran’s regime is jailing relatives of political activists in an effort to silence critics at home and abroad, human rights advocacy groups say.

The regime in July sentenced Alireza Alinejad, the brother of prominent regime critic Masih Alinejad, to eight years in prison on trumped up charges, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“Iran goes after the family members of activists and journalists, threatening them and prosecuting them under sham charges in judicial proceedings that lack any semblance of due process in order to silence critics of the state,” CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi said in a July 16 statement.

Masih Alinejad, who lives in the U.S., often protests the regime’s law requiring that women wear hijab. Iran’s judiciary convicted her brother on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook says the case is about retaliation, not justice.

“Alireza Alinejad was sentenced to eight years in prison because his sister, Masih, speaks out against the tyranny of the mullahs,” Hook said July 21. “We call today for Alireza’s immediate release.”

Woman sitting in chair speaking on a stage (© Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Masih Alinejad, in New York in April 2019, protests Iran’s mandatory hijab law. (© Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Soon after Alinejad’s arrest, a dozen advocacy groups, including CHRI and Human Rights Watch, issued an October 2, 2019, letter faulting Iran’s regime for targeting family members to silence critics.

“These arrests fit a pattern of intimidation and harassment often undertaken by the Iranian authorities to silence dissidents and civil society activists inside and outside Iran,” the groups said.

Iran’s regime in April 2020 sentenced novelist Hamid Namjoo to a year in prison for the content of his writing and for publishing abroad, CHRI says. But the verdict noted that he is the brother of Mohsen Namjoo, a prominent Iranian musician living in the U.S., and a “fugitive dissident anti-revolutionary singer,” CHRI adds.

In 2019, Iran’s regime sentenced Reza Khandan, husband of Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, to six years in prison, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Khandan was convicted of charges that included “propaganda against the system” after voicing support for his wife, who is serving more than 30 years in prison for defending women charged with violating the regime’s mandatory hijab law.

The son of imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad faced trial in April for protesting the regime’s downing of a Ukrainian civilian airliner. But Nourizad’s wife told CHRI that she believes the prosecution of her son, Ali Nourizad, is aimed at pressuring her husband.

Mohammad Nourizad is in prison for calling on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to resign.

In a March 2020 letter, U.N. human rights experts voiced alarm that the Iranian regime was targeting family members of BBC news reporters.

“Their families residing in Iran have faced harassment and intimidation by Iranian authorities,” the experts said. “In some cases, family members were deprived of their liberty and held in degrading conditions, and ordered to tell their relatives to stop working for the BBC.”