"The Only Sin I Committed Was to Visit My 90-Year-Old Father in Israel": Account of a Jewish Prisoner at Evin
Mashallah Pessar-e Cohen, a Jewish citizen who is serving a 3-year sentence at Evin Prison, has written a letter in which he talks about his case and describes his current conditions in prison. He states in a passage in the letter: “My only sin was to have visited my 90-year-old father who, for various reasons, had returned to the State of Israel. He was ill and I went to visit him. In our religion and in most religions, or even from a solely moral perspective, it is imperative to visit your parents and to tend to their needs, and that was why I went to visit my father. They arrested me upon my return, and I was subjected to much torture, solely for the crime of having visited my father.” Mr. Pessar-e Cohen was arrested by security forces in June of the current year, and learned of his conviction on the charge of “simply having travelled to Israel” after being transferred to the Evin Prison Sentence Implementation Division. Mr. Pessar-e Cohen was arrested in 2017, by the Imam Khomeini Airport security forces upon returning from a trip to Israel to visit his family. Tens of thousands of Iranian Jews were forced to leave the country after the 1979 Revolution and many of them now live in Israel.
According to HRANA News Agency, the Human Right Activists’ news organ, Mashallah Pessar-e Cohen, a Jewish citizen incarcerated at Evin Prison, published a letter on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, in which he criticized his conviction and described his current conditions in prison.
In describing his current situation, he began his letter by stating: “I am a lonely and sad Jewish person in prison. All my hair and beard has turned grey and I suffer from digestive illnesses. My teeth have rotted and I cannot eat the food in here. They arrested me in the shower [at my home], without notice, and proceeded to torture and interrogate me while I was handcuffed and shackled. They brought me to Evin Prison after two days in handcuffs and blindfold.”
This 59-year-old citizen who suffers from various illnesses such as certain digestive problems, neurological [and psychological] issues, and extremely weak eyesight, and has been deprived of medical attention, said the following in his letter regarding his physical condition: “I have encountered a lot of problems in prison. I have nightmares every night; I have no hope for the future and I am undergoing a lot of hardships. I am unable to eat prison food because of the nightmares and delusions [and anxiety], and I have therefore lost all my strength. My eyesight has gotten much worse and I am not able to even go up the stairs in the ward.”
This Jewish citizen, who has been detained and sentenced to imprisonment for having travelled to the State of Israel, alluded to that fact in a passage in his letter: “My only sin was to visit my 90-year-old father who, for various reasons, had returned to the State of Israel. He was ill and I went to visit him. In our religion and in most religions, or even from a solely moral perspective, it is imperative to visit your parents and to tend to their needs, and that was why I went to visit my father. They arrested me upon my return, and I was subjected to much torture, solely for the crime of having visited my father. I am calling upon the people to be my voice [and speak on my behalf].”
Upon returning from visiting his family in Israel, Mashallah Pessar-e Cohen was arrested by Ministry of Information agents at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport on September 27, 2017, and was released a week later after having gone through an interrogation phase.
In the spring of the current year, Tehran Revolutionary Court, Branch 15, presided by Judge Salavati, sentenced Mr. Pessar-e Cohen to three years in prison on the charge of “entry into the State of Israel”. The sentence was upheld verbatim by the Court of Appeals, Branch 36, presided by Judge Baba’ee.
He was free on bail when he was arrested on May 23, 2019, by security agents at his home, located in the vicinity of [the city of] Yazd’s Khold-e Barin Cemetery, and was taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison Prosecutor’s Office, Sentence Implementation Division, in order to serve his sentence. He had not been served with any notices prior to the arrest, and Mr. Passar-e Cohen learned of his sentence only after he was detained.
Mashallah Pessar-e Cohen, son of Ebrahim, was born on July 17, 1960, is married, and has three children. He has a fabric business in the city of Yazd, where he worked before his arrest.
This Jewish citizen is currently serving time at Evin Prison’s Ward 8, Hall 9.
In November 1991, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (“Majless”, the Iranian parliament) passed the bill for stricter punishment for travel to Israel. According to this law, any Iranian travelling to Israel will be sentenced to imprisonment “from two to five years” and will be deprived of a passport for “three to five years”.
It must be noted that Iranian laws have criminalized travel to Israel in circumstances where, in addition to having religious bonds to that country, Iranian Jews have extensive family relations there because of the large wave of migration by Iranian Jews to Israel after the Revolution, and their travel to that country for religious or family purposes is an otherwise ordinary event that has become a security issue because of the Iranian regime’s outlook and its foreign policy.