A professor and former polictical prisoner has written to Chief Justice after being denied exit from Iran to begin a one-year research post at Yale University.
Sociology professor Saeed Madani said he was stopped at an airport gate December 7 as he was about to board while security checked his United States visa, and that a Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) intelligence officer then told him, without an explanation, that he was barred from leaving the country and kept Madani's passport.
Madani said in his letter to Chief Justice Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei he had two days earlier been summoned by the intelligence ministry, questioned for four hours, and then told he was free to leave Iran.
It is not unprecedented for someone leaving Iran to discover at the airport they are unable to leave. In 2005, Emaddedin Baghi, who campaigns against capital punishment, was stopped minutes before boarding a flight to Paris, where he was due to receive an award from the French government.
Baghi, also chairman of Society to Defend Prisoners' Rights, was again denied exit in 2009, when he was travelling to receive the Martin Ennals Award, which is given by ten international human rights organizations.
Unofficial foreign travel bans often prevent activists, political figures, and former officials from participating in international academic events and seminars.
On several occasions in recent months, Mohseni-Ejei has criticized foreign travel bans levied by tax authorities, banks, and legal authorities, but not by security and intelligence bodies. Any or all could act against activists. Mohseni-Ejei told judiciary officials October 11 that for people to find out they were unable to leave only at the airport was “damaging.”
In his letter, Madani wrote that such actions, regardless of who was behind them, violated Articles 9, 20, 30, and 33 of the Iranian constitution, and violated the right to freedom of movement given by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In an earlier letter, sent to the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad-Mehdi Esmaili in November, Madani protested against the ministry banning publication of his books without a court order.
Madani − whose research interests include poverty, drug addiction, child abuse, and prostitution − belongs to the banned Nationalist-Religious Alliance, a group of small non-violent religious opposition groups that favor political reform and welfare economics. He has been sentenced and imprisoned several times for membership of the alliance and for "propaganda against the state." In 2016, he was exiled to the southern port city of Bandar Abbas after four years of an eight-year prison sentence served at Evin prison, Tehran.