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Khalil Rostamkhani's interview with Berliner Zeitung (updated)

Khalil Rostamkhani was recently convicted for his involvement with the Berlin conference and sentenced to 9 years in prison and exile. Following the publication of the English translation of Berliner Zeitung interview with Rostamkhani, we received the following email from Roshanak Daryoush, Rostamkhani's wife, in which she made some clarifications and corrections about her husband's interview. We are publishing Mrs. Daryoush's email along with the revised interview:

Dear Friends,

I wanted to thank you that you put the interview of my husband, Khalil Rostamkhani, in your website in Payvand. But I have to inform you that Khalil Rostamkhani was not in Berlin and did not participate in the conference. He only made the appointments for the delegate from the Boell-Foundation in Tehran and translated their discussions with the guests whom the foundation wanted to invite to the Berlin Conference .

There are also some mistakes in the translation in English and German, and I would be grateful if you could correct them:

- Khalil Rostamkhani was imprisoned 1990-1992 and the leadership of the organization Vahdate Communisti (Communist Unity) has not existed since 1990 as every member of that organization was imprisoned in Iran. (The mistakes happened when converting the Iranian dates to the Western calendar.)

- The article in Islamic Law of Mohareb is 186 and not 185.

- Khalil has not had to pay a cash fine.

Best Regards
Roshanak Daryoush

Mrs. Daryoush was scheduled to appear in an event in Washington DC on January 27. However, she wasn't able to obtain her visa in time. Instead she sent a statement (in Persian - pdf) to be read in the meeting.

Khalil Rostamkhani's interview with Berliner Zeitung

Berliner Zeitung, 18 January 2001

Q: What exactly were/are the claims against you?

A: There were two charges against me: "1. Conducting activities and efforts to advance the goals of the hostile and mohareb [definition has been given below] opposition groups abroad by means of receiving statements of the said groups, publicizing and distributing them in Iran;

2. Acting as deputy in preparing and forming an association under the title of Berlin Conference by means of negotiations, inviting, encouraging and enticing the invited persons to participate in that conference the principal goal of which was to disrupt the national security and to make publicity against the Islamic system."

Q: Some of the defendants and participants in the symposium of the Heinrich Boell foundation were acquitted, some got prison terms of 4 or 4.5 years. You, Mr. Ganji and Mr. Sadr got exceptionally high prison terms - how do you explain those differences?

A: I am glad that they were acquitted. Three, i.e. the writers (Ms. Ravanipur, Mr. Dowlatabadi and Mr. Sepanlu) had not been able to make readings in the Conference any way. My case and the charges against me are different from Mr. Ganji's. I have been given 8 years of prison in the tropical town of Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf coast. The first charge against me and the relevant part of the sentence are based on Article 186 of the Islamic Punishment Law.

Article 186 is as follows: "Any organized group or association that has an armed uprising against the Islamic government, as long as the central leadership of that group is in existence, all its members and followers who know the stands of that group or association or organization and conduct in some way effective activity and efforts to advance its goals, are mohareb, even though they may not be involved in the armed wing..."

Articles 183 of the same law define mohareb as: "Anybody who takes up arms to create fear and to deprive the people of freedom and security..." Also Article 186 defines: "An armed robber and bandit is a mohareb when he disrupts security of the people or the road by means of arms."

Furthermore, Article 190 of the same law has provided for 4 types of punishments for that charge. Article 191 of the same law has empowered the judge to decide upon any of the four. The judge in my trial has decided upon the softest option which is: [internal] banishment or exile. Nevertheless, he has also based his sentence on a fatwa of the Leader that the banished persons can be kept in prison, as well as on Article 167 of the Constitution.

Article 167 provides: "A judge has a duty to try and find rulings for any case in the existing laws and if he does not, he shall issue sentence by invoking valid Islamic sources or valid fatwas. He cannot refuse to examine a case nor refuse to issue a sentence on the excuse that the existing laws are silent, or incomplete or brief or in conflict with each other."

The judge's reasons for his decision are based on finding statements and publications of the hostile and mohareb groups in my house; those statements containing the goals and plans of those groups to overthrow the system; my record of membership in the Communist Unity Organization and my previous conviction. The judge stated in the sentence: "The fact that those statements, according to remarks of the defendant have been given to members of the Writers Association and a viewing of the goals of the Berlin Conference which were stated in the procedure of the case, the Court deems this much of actions of the defendant to be covered under and to conform with Article 186 of the Islamic Punishment Law of 1991."

I assume Mr. Sadr is also facing a similar situation, but I have not seen his sentence.

Concerning the second charge against me, I have been given one year in prison which I assume to be in Tehran. Unfortunately, I am unable to explain the judge's reasoning for this punishment, because at the moment I do not have the text of the relevant part of the sentence and I hope to get it later.

Q: How fair was the trial? What are your plans? Are you going to file an appeal?

A: I will certainly appeal, because of the following reasons:

First: I have never ever been involved in any armed action or armed uprising. I was convicted for membership of an illegal group (namely Communist Unity Organization) and served two years in prison from 1990-1992 for it. Even then the group of which I was a member was not involved in armed activity or armed uprising as the Article of the law requires.

Second: Neither that group nor its central leadership has been in existence since 1990.

Third: I myself have always worked with nothing but pens, typewriters and later computers; I have been involved in journalism and translation for the past 22 years since the revolution in Iran. The closest I have ever come to any firearms has been when I saw such arms in the hands of policemen!

Fourth: I have not been involved in organized activities against the government ever since I was freed from prison in 1992.

Fifth: The publications found in my house were for records and archive of my wife as a sociologist, a translator of German literature and a member of the Iranian Writers Association. I have not distributed those publications (of which there was only one copy of each in our house) to anybody and the prosecution did not cite even one single piece of evidence to substantiate the claim and I have not said that I gave any publications to anybody. Furthermore, nobody can at one and the same time be a follower of about 10 totally different groups in a wide political spectrum ranging from the nationalist democrats to different conflicting leftist groups to Mr. Banisadr, as the prosecution claimed about me.

Sixth: I do not think my previous conviction for which I have already served, or having the publications in my house qualify me for the title of mohareb under the law.

Finally: It is clear that the other provision of the law does not apply to me either as I am clearly neither an armed robber nor an armed bandit.

Regarding the second charge, I have only done my usual job of arranging appointments with participants of the Conference and going along to those meetings to help with translation. As I said earlier I cannot comment on the relevant part of the sentence at present.

Q: If you file an appeal, do you expect that your prison term might be reduced? Or that you could even get acquitted?

A: I can only say that I hope to have a drastic reduction of the sentence or even total abolition of it. But I do not know what it would mean to be acquitted at this stage, because I have already served six months and five days in detention.

Q: You are out on bail . Have you received any formal note by the judiciary as to be sent back to jail?

A: No. I have not received a notice to go back to jail. As long as the appeal is pending and it has not been examined and the verdict has not been finalized, I will stay out.

Q:What would you wish for yourself personally?

... Payvand News - 1/31/01 ... --

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