Global campaign to save kidnapped dissident from execution in Iran

Jamshid Sharmahd 's trial is presided over by the 'death judge' Abolqasem Salavati.

Jamshid Sharmahd and his daughter, Gazelle. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jamshid Sharmahd and his daughter, Gazelle.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

An international campaign featuring a who’s who of prominent Iranians and former hostages of the Islamic Republic of Iran urged in an open letter to German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock to intervene to save the life of Jamshid Sharmahd, a German citizen and legal US resident abducted by Iran’s regime in 2020.

The letter was issued last month ahead of a slated trial appearance for Sharmahd on Sunday in Tehran, where the Iranian authorities have reportedly produced a show trial that could lead to the death penalty for the dissident.

Sharmahd’s daughter Gazelle tweeted: “Just got off the phone with my dad‘s lawyer @Mhaghasi1. The judge is preventing him from seeing and defending his client. The sham trial is being continued, like a puppet show. And the @AuswaertigesAmt [German foreign ministry] wants to ensure a fair trial? Mission impossible!!! #SaveSharmahd.“ 

She added that “Nothing about the trial has to do with Justice, nothing about the charges has any resemblance to the truth. He is another victim in the series of regime kidnappings and terrorization of dissidents in 43 years." 

The public letter to the German foreign minister said that “We are reaching out to you in desperation and asking you to save a human life. The life of German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd, who has been held hostage by the Islamic Republic of Iran for 18 months, is in grave danger.

Jamshid Sharmahd had to make a three-day stopover at Dubai Airport in August 2020 on a trip from Germany to India. There he lost contact with his family. The family learned a few days later through Iranian state media that Mr. Sharmahd had been kidnapped by the Islamic Republic's secret service and taken to Iran..."

The signees continued that “Jamshid Sharmahd is a political activist who has consistently criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to his daughter, Gazelle Sharmahd, her father has been in solitary confinement for 555 days and has not been able to contact his family, nor has he had access to an independent lawyer or contact with family and relatives in Iran.”

The letter declared that “It is of the utmost importance that the federal government act immediately to prevent the planned state assassination of Mr. Sharmahd. We urge that the matter be given top priority, that a crisis management team be set up, and that the German government exhaust all political and diplomatic avenues to put pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran. A general condemnation of the death penalty and a call to respect human rights are not enough. We urge you to take immediate, serious and sustained action to save the life of the 66-year-old German citizen and his family from this horrific act.”

The letter was published on the website change.org as a petition and as of Monday, 70,060 people signed the petition in support of the letter.

Some of the signatories included Mina Ahadi, from the International Committee against the death penalty, Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist and activist, Dr. Reza Parchizadeh, political theorist and security analyst, as well as Nazanin Boniadi, actor, human rights advocate, and ambassador for Amnesty International in the United Kingdom.

Mariam Claren, the daughter of German-Iranian political prisoner Nahid Taghavi, also signed.

The letter stated that “On Saturday, February 5, Iranian state media reported that his trial would begin the following day. The family found out about the trial again only through the media. On February 6, Jamshid Sharmahd's trial began, which must be judged a political show trial as it is partially broadcast in the Iranian state media.”

According to Sharmahd's family, he is severely emaciated and "not himself anymore."

The letter noted that " He is before the Revolutionary Court 15, which is presided over by Judge Abolqasem Salavati, notorious as the ‘death judge.’ The charge is ‘corruption on earth,’ which means the death penalty in the medieval legal system of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Judge Salavati is known to impose the death penalty. The last victim was Ruhollah Zam. Journalist Zam was also kidnapped to Iran and hanged there in December 2020, “ wrote the signees.

The letter was also signed by the Australian academic, Dr. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage in Iran from 2018-2020, Barry Rosen,  a former US diplomat and hostage in Iran from 1979-1981, and Xiyue Wang, a former hostage in Iran from 2016-2019.

 PEOPLE PASS a mural of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS) PEOPLE PASS a mural of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran (credit: NAZANIN TABATABAEE/WANA VIA REUTERS)

The 66-year-old Sharmahd, who has lived in the US since 2003,  has campaigned against the theocratic state. Jamshid is a journalist and the spokesperson for the Los Angeles-based Kingdom Assembly of Iran exile opposition group. Iran’s regime claims, without providing any evidence, that Sharmahd was complicit in a 2008 bombing of the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada Mosque in the city of Shiraz. The bombing resulted in the deaths of 14 people, and 215 others were injured.

The think tank Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin (MFFB) published a statement on its webpage in support of Sharmahd, with a list of quotes from politicians and activists.

The Free Democratic Party secretary-general-designate Bijan Djir-Sarai told MFFB that "For his courageous stand against the Iranian regime, Jamshid Sharmahd now faces the death penalty. Human rights are indivisible and apply worldwide – they must also apply to Jamshid Sharmahd. Time and again, Iran breaks this principle. Sharmahd must be released from unlawful detention as soon as possible to live a life in freedom."

The organization MFFB wrote that "together with the family of the accused, politicians and human rights activists... appeals to the German government to exert public pressure on the regime in Iran to release Jamshid Sharmahd."

Additional signees of the public letter were Guila Fakhoury, Co-founder Amer Fakhoury Foundation; Martin Lessenthin, spokesman for the board of the International Society for Human Rights; Shiva Mahbobi, spokeswoman for Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran; Rezvan Moghaddam, women’s rights advocate; Daren Nair, former board member of Amnesty UK; Maryam Namazie, writer and activist; Gissou Nia, human rights lawyer; Majid Niknamamini, journalist, founder of Sattar Beheshti Foundation und Amadnews;  Hourvash Pourkian from International Women in Power; Jason Poblete, US Attorney for Jamshid Sharmahd und president Global Liberty Alliance, 2020 recipient of the James W Foley Legacy Foundation Hostage Advocacy Award;  Ahmad Rafat, journalist Kayhan News; and Gazelle Sharmahd.