“‘Insulting regime leaders during telephone conversations’” is a question/accusation Hassan Lahooti faced when he was arrested on Sunday night after his plane from London landed in Tehran. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s grandson was arrested by Imam Khomeini International Airport officers, acting on orders from the Judiciary. A source close to Hashemi Rafsanjani told BBC Persian that Mr. Lahooti was interrogated about two issues: One, regarding ‘insulting regime leaders during telephone conversations,’ and the other, “participating in June 15, 2009 protests in Tehran.”
A number of other Iranian political activists and journalists have said that they believe that their home phones and cell phones have been tapped by security authorities. But as the International campaign for Human Rights in Iran points out, Lahooti’s case is “a rare occasion where telephone conversations are used as the basis for a charge made by the Iranian judicial authorities.” Lahooti has been released on bail.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says over the past few years and especially following the post-election crackdown, several released prisoners told the rights group that they were presented with printed transcripts of their telephone conversations and that things they had said on the phone were used as means to pressure them:
“One of these released prisoners told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: ‘First they showed me a list of telephone numbers I had called and asked me to identify the people I had called. Then they showed me transcripts of several telephone calls I had made during which I had expressed my personal opinions about certain individuals and certain events. They told me that with the things I had said they could keep me in prison for two to three years. I told them this was illegal, but my interrogator believed that Iran Telecommunications is a government organization and using government services, even if one pays for them, is regarded as ‘public space.’”
Mehdi Saharkhiz, the son of a prominent reformist journalist Issa Saharkhiz, told RFE/RL last July that his father was arrested after authorities traced him through his Nokia cell phone.
A political activist who did not want to be named because of fear of being arrested told me several years ago that whenever he would speak about a confidential matter over the phone he would say to the person he was talking to “This is just between you, me, and the gentleman who is listening.”
-- Golnaz Esfandiari