March 29, 2007

Dear all,

At 1:30 PM, Thursday 15 March, 2007, when members of the board of directors of ICTRC were holding a weekly meeting and most of the staff were present at the ICTRC office, the Intelligence forces (4 persons at first, but 2 other persons showed up later too) came to ICTRC office holding a search warrant issued by the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Court. The warrant said that based on the charges against ICTRC (which were not mentioned) the ICTRC ICT Center should be searched and any items existing in the said office could be confiscated if necessary. They asked every body out, except for me (ICTRC Executive Director) and started searching the place. In spite of my request, they did not provide any reason of legal accusation against ICTRC for their act. One hour later, they sealed ICTRC ICT Center and took me to my home and searched it too (they had a separate warrant for that too). Their thorough search took 4 hours. They took away all kinds of documents (including personal ones such as checkbooks, etc.), personal documents, tapes, CDs, photos, etc. (including books, newsletters, and all my hand-written notes). When they wanted to take my personal properties, I told them that what they were doing was illegal. They answered that I will be informed of the accusations against me later. They did not answer to my other questions either. At 6:30 PM they took me to the ICTRC headquarters where 10 other intelligence people were busy searching the place and confiscating the documents. They finished searching the place by 7:30 PM and sealed the place. During their presence in ICTRC office, they didn’t let any of us to make contacts with outside. When I asked them whether I was under arrest, they would not answer me. After they were finished, in response to my question on where I should go for this they told me to go to Mr. Haddad (the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Court Security Deputy). The authorities also blocked the ICTRC’s bank accounts and my personal bank account on the same day (as I later realized).

On Saturday, 17 March, 2007, I talked to my attorney – Ms. Shirin Ebadi – about the subject. They made a formal complaint and submitted that to the Revolutionary Court on Monday, 19 March 2007. Ms. Shirin Ebadi believed that it was completely illegal to seal the office and confiscate the properties without stating clear accusations. We have not received any reply to that complaint or other contacts from the authorities to this moment. The Iranian authorities’ timing for sealing the ICTRC offices was perfect. They did that just before the new year holidays so that there is lack of media coverage about it and it is difficult for us to file a complaint and follow that in that regard.

In the past, ICTRC staff (including board members) have been questioned by agents (on the street) or summoned officially by courts. However, no formal accusations have ever been made so far upon ICTRC.

ICTRC (known as Koneshgaran Davtalab within Iran) is a non-for-profit organization, founded in 2002, which works on the capacity-building of Iranian civil society organizations, strengthening free access to information, promoting roles of women and children NGOs in MDGs (Millennium development goals) and raising public awareness and knowledge of citizens about human rights. ICTRC is the focal point for CSOs in West Asia and the Middle East and a member to the CSO Bureau of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). ICTRC mainly works with HIVOS (Netherlands), Internews Europe (France), Amazone (Belgium) and UNICEF, Iran.

Sealing the offices of ICTRC is a move against the laws of the country and a clear example of the violation of the human rights. We, hereby, urge all human rights organizations and CSOs (at national and international level) to react to the violation of fundamental freedoms and human rights and the suppression of independent Iranian CSOs and demand the Iranian government to respect the freedoms and rights of people and CSOs through a large-scale campaign.

2 other Iranian CSOs – NGO TC and Rahi – were also sealed on the same day, while their executive directors – Mahboubeh Abbasghjolizadeh and Shadi Sadr – were still in custody. The two women activists who were bailed out of prison on 19 March were among the 33 women activists who had earlier been arrested on 4 March 2007, while holding a peaceful gathering in front of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Court in protest to the trial of 5 other women activists. Many Iranian CSOs have so far been suffering from the efforts of the government for their elimination, isolation and limitation.

Thank you all.

Sohrab Razzaghi

ICTRC Executive Director