Majid Tavakoli’s Brother Talks to Voice of America

Majid Tavakoli is a member of the Islamic Students Union at Tehran’s Amirkabir (Polytechnic) University of Technology. He was arrested following a speech he gave on December 7, 2009 for Student Day at the university. He has since been held in solitary confinement and sentenced to eight years and six months in prison; two years are for insulting the Supreme Leader and six months are for insulting the President.

VOA correspondent Negar Mortazavi interviewed Ali Tavkoli on his brother’s conditions in prison and the charges against the student activist.
VOA: Can you describe Majid’s most recent condition?

Ali Tavakoli: He is in excellent spirits, but physically he has really weakened. He has spent the entire four months in solitary confinement. He is the only prisoner in ward 240. The other prisoners are all on temporary release. Majid is not allowed to receive any visits or contact anybody outside the prison. If the Attorney General agrees, we will be able to visit Majid as a one-time deal.

VOA: What is the reason behind the 8.5 years sentence? It is one of the recently harshest punishments issued to a political prisoner.

Ali Tavakoli: As Majid himself points out, his only crime is giving a speech. There are no other charges against him. The interrogation papers are not included in his file, so they cannot judge him based on anything investigated or said during the interrogations. That is probably one of the reasons they are not allowing his lawyer access his file. They also accused Majid of conspiracy [to act against national security] by assembling all the students on Student Day on campus so he can deliver a speech. This shows a certain level of spite that the [regime officials] have toward the Student Movement and the vengeance they have against Majid.

Majid’s public criticisms of the government post-election (June 2009) [is the reason for his imprisonment], because the [ruling establishment] believes that there should be no criticism. Since Majid did not agree to say what they wanted him to say [in court], the trial and sentence proceeded in this manner. Now, we are waiting for the Appeals Court to see how the [situation will pan out]. Since the charges against him are false and there is no evidence to back them up, we are hoping a reduction in sentence or even an acquittal.

In my opinion, Majid has not committed any crime that deserves imprisonment. He has only expressed his opinions within the boundaries of the law. Moreover, criticism is not a crime; it was legal. And December 7th is a day that belongs to students.

Students have the right to express their critical views on this day. Majid’s arrest was completely illegal and he was beaten in the course of the arrest.

VOA: Recently many political prisoners were released for Norooz (Iranian New Year) so they can spend the holidays with their families. Why was Majid not released?

Ali Tavakoli: We were under pressure from the Ministry of Intelligence and the government. They told us if we keep silent [and do not give interviews], Majid will contact the family within the next two to seven days, but it has been three months since the last time he contacted home.

They do not keep their promises, but they expect us to believe what they say. We had to try for an entire week to obtain permission for our last visit. We live in Shiraz (southwest of Iran), and it is a 14 hour bus ride away [to the court]. My mother is very ill and the trips are hard for her. We were hoping they would allow Majid to talk with my mother for only five minutes after four months of no contact. We do not have high expectations and we do not want much. Our situation is really hard [to deal with]. We are in a real hardship.

Translation by: Siavosh J.


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