GENEVA, February 20, 2018 – Maryam Malekpour, sister of Saeed Malekpour, Iranian developer serving life sentence in Evin prison on spurious charges, addressed the 10th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy — see quotes below.

For links to other speakers’ quotes, videos, photos, livestream, and more, click here.

On Iran’s abduction and imprisonment of Saeed Malekpour:

  • “Our nightmare began on October 4, 2008, when my brother was abducted in broad daylight by plainclothes Revolutionary Guard forces. Saeed was beaten, blindfolded and taken to Evin Prison, where he spent more than a year in solitary confinement.”
  • “After Saeed was abducted, we had no idea where he was.”
  • “After we were granted a visit with Saeed, he informed us that the authorities had no evidence to prove the charges against him except for forced confessions which they extracted from him under severe physical and psychological torture.”
  • “Saeed looked gaunt and would not speak much. His clothing covered his skin to prevent us from seeing the abuse that was inflicted on him.”
  • “On the night of our father’s funeral, while Saeed was sitting in his prison cell and unaware that his father had even passed away, state television showed Saeed confessing to a series of crimes in connection with a porn site; when his mother saw it, she suffered a heart attack.”

Quoting letter from Saeed Malekpour:

  • “While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with their fists, cables, and batons struck and punched me. One of the interrogators threatened to pull out my tooth with a pair of tongs. One of my tooth broke and my jaw was displaced after I was kicked in the face by him. My face became very swollen and I lost consciousness several times as a result of the beatings. The left side of my body was paralyzed for 20 days.”
  • “The physical tortures were nothing compared to the psychological torments. I endured long durations in solitary confinement without access to phone calls or my loved ones. The interrogators constantly threatened to arrest and torture my family if I did not cooperate with them.”

On Maryam Malekpour being forced to flee Iran:

  • “I was forced to leave Iran in 2012 when I discovered that the Iranian authorities had issued a warrant for my arrest. They were angered that I was speaking to the media about my brother’s situation.”
  • “I left my entire life, including my husband and career.”


Full prepared remarks:

October 4, 2018 will mark the tenth year that my brother Saeed Malekpour has been in a dungeon-like cell in Iran. Our family’s lives have been turned upside down by the Iranian government. Our nightmare began on October 4, 2008, when my brother was abducted in broad daylight by plainclothes Revolutionary Guard forces. Saeed was beaten, blindfolded and taken to Evin Prison, where he spent more than a year in solitary confinement.  Saeed was in Iran on a visit from Victoria, British Columbia. Our father was terminally ill, and my brother came to pay him one last visit.   

My brother moved to Canada in 2004 after graduating from Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology. He intended to build a calm and peaceful life for himself in Canada and pursue his PhD studies. By 2008, he had Canadian permanent residency status and was on the path to citizenship. Had the Iranian authorities not imprisoned him, Saeed would have been a Canadian citizen. My brother was always a health conscience, principled, and caring man. In Canada he made an honest and modest living by working as a freelance web programmer. He would write codes and programs and sell them to various clients. He also wrote open source codes in which he made available to the public on his personal website.   

After Saeed was abducted, we had no idea where he was. We called every security branch in Iran to no avail. Several months after his abduction, we discovered that he was held in Tehran’s Evin Prison and was accused of moderating a network of pornographic websites. We were horrified.  After we were granted a visit with Saeed, he informed us that the authorities had no evidence to prove the charges against him except for forced confessions which they extracted from him under severe physical and psychological torture. During the visit, Saeed looked gaunt and would not speak much. HIs clothing covered his skin to prevent us from seeing the abuse that was inflicted on him.  

On the night of our father’s funeral, while Saeed was sitting in his prison cell and unaware that his father had even passed away, state television showed Saeed confessing to a series of crimes in connection with a porn site; when his mother saw it, she suffered a heart attack. My brother’s confessions have since been regularly aired on state television.   

Saeed’s forced confessions were aired  in 2010, months before the court even issued him his official charges and sentence. Assuming a person’s guilt before they are officially charged is itself against Iranian laws. 

Saeed had written a letter he intended to read in his court defense. However, during his first court hearing, he was neither allowed to speak nor submit any documents in his defense. And so after exiting the court, he slipped me the letter, and I snuck it out of the court hall under my chador.  

I submitted the letter to Persian-language news sites. My intention was to expose the truth, knowing that the Iranian courts had not provided Saeed with a fair trial. Months after his first court hearing, Saeed was sentenced to death by hanging solely based on his forced confessions. No other evidence was presented in court to justify the charges against him. To this day, almost a decade after his kidnapping, the forced confessions remain the only so-called evidence against him.  

I am going to read you some excerpts from Saeed’s letter, a letter that ultimately provided the groundwork for the international campaign I launched calling for his release from prison:  

“While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with their fists, cables, and batons struck and punched me.  

One of the interrogators threatened to pull out my tooth with a pair of tongs. One of my tooth broke and my jaw was displaced after I was kicked in the face by him. My face became very swollen and I lost consciousness several times as a result of the beatings. The left side of my body was paralyzed for 20 days.  

However, the physical tortures were nothing compared to the psychological torments. I endured long durations in solitary confinement without access to phone calls or my loved ones. The interrogators constantly threatened to arrest and torture my family if I did not cooperate with them.  

Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to play a role in front of the camera.  

My father passed away in March 2009. The officials were aware of his death, but I only discovered that he died 40 days after, when I was allowed a supervised phone call with my family.”  

—————————————— 

I have been vigorously campaigning for the release of my brother. My mother and I have written countless letters to the Iranian judiciary and other Iranian officials, including the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Most of our letters have gone unanswered.  

Our campaigning efforts led the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper to speak out in defense of my brother. With the help of the Canadian government and other countries, we were able to apply enough pressure to lead the Iranian authorities to commute his death sentence to life in prison.  

I was forced to leave Iran in 2012 when I discovered that the Iranian authorities had issued a warrant for my arrest. They were angered that I was speaking to the media about my brother’s situation. I left my entire life, including my husband and career. I left Iran legally by travelling to Turkey. With the help of Canadian activists and the Canadian government, I was brought to Canada on a special Visa issued to women in danger. I now live in Vancouver, British Columbia.  

My brother is a victim of a political ploy. He is used by the Iranian authorities to inflict fear on Iranian civil society, to scare Iranians away from the Internet. At the time of my brother’s abduction, blogging was blooming in Iran. Many Iranians were using the Internet to express themselves online. Saeed’s arrest was part of a crackdown on internet activities deemed “immoral” and “un-Islamic” by the Revolutionary Guards. It seems the Iranian authorities wanted to stifle Iranian youth’s expanding use of online expression by making an example of a tech expert.  

The issue of Western onslaught and invasion has always been raised by Iranian authorities. The idea that the West is conspiring against the Iranian government and leading the Iranian youth astray is a mantra used by the Iranian authorities as a pretext to justify crackdown on Iranians. Saeed was the perfect target as he lived in a Western country.  

Today, only the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the power to release my brother. However, world governments, especially those who have relations with the Iranian authorities, like the current Canadian government, have the power to secure Saeed’s release from prison amid their talks with Iranian authorities. With the right amount of pressure, world governments can help end the nightmare Saeed and his family have been living for the past decade.