Iranian journalist Sadegh Qaisari, a reporter for state-run website Ensaf and Setare Sobh, was arrested in February 2018 while reporting on clashes between the security forces and Gonabadi Dervishes, a Sufi splinter group, in Tehran. He was detained for several months without access to a lawyer, before being convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in July 2018. The charges against him were not disclosed. He is serving his sentence in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary.
Police arrested Qaisari, a reporter for the state-run website Ensaf and state-run, moderate daily newspaper Setare Sobh while he was trying to cover the protests by the Gonabadi Dervishes in Tehran on February 19, 2018, according to Ensaf, the U.S.-based Iranian rights group HRANA, and a Twitter post by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The clashes–which broke out between Tehran’s security forces and members of a Sufi splinter group, the Gonabadi Dervishes, who were protesting the arrest of one of their members–resulted in six fatalities, including five police officers, and over 300 arrests, according to news reports.
According to a July 6, 2018, Ensaf article and a May 3, 2018, Twitter post by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Qaisari was detained without access to a lawyer for several months.
On July 6, 2018, revolutionary court Judge Abolgasem Salavati sentenced Qaisari to seven years in prison, 74 lashes, a two-year travel ban, and a two-year ban on media activities, according to the London-based Iranian news site Kayhan and Voice of America.
According to his father, Hadi Qaisari, who spoke with London-based Farsi-speaking news channel Manoto TV in an interview posted in Twitter on October 22, 2018, several of Sadegh Qaisari’s teeth and ribs were broken at the time of his arrest. He was also struck on the head during the arrest, which caused head trauma and bleeding, his father said. According to his father, he was treated only with painkillers in the prison’s clinic, with no access to a hospital. His father added that Qaisari is banned from having prison visits with his family.
According to his father’s interview and an October 3, 2018, post on Twitter by Majzooban-e-Noor–which covers news about the Gonabadi Dervishes–Qaisari waged a hunger strike to protest his harsh sentence and prison conditions. His father also said he was suffering from kidney pain, but did not give any additional information.
HRANA in mid-November 2018 cited an anonymous source familiar with Qaisari’s situation as saying the journalist been suffering from nighttime panic attacks while in detention at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary south of the capital–known as Fashafouyeh prison–according to the same report and Voice of America.
As of late 2019, CPJ could not locate contact information for Qaisari’s family or his lawyer to obtain updates on his case or his health condition.
CPJ was unable to contact Iran’s Ministry of Justice or the judiciary of Tehran province via their websites, which were not functioning. CPJ could not locate an email address, website, or phone number for the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the United Nations in October 2019 for comment on Qaisari’s case, but did not receive a response.