Reza Eslami is an Iranian-Canadian professor of human rights and environmental law at Shahid Beheshti University (SBU) in Tehran. He earned a Ph.D. in law from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and taught at SBU for almost 20 years. He was a visiting fellow at McGill from 2019–20. He has authored 17 books and more than 50 articles on human rights.
Eslami was arrested at SBU in May 2020 by agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). They searched his office and seized his personnel effects, including computers, books, and cellular phones. They also searched his home. He was arrested because he participated in a legal training course in the Czech Republic put together by a U.S.-funded Czech nongovernmental organization.
The regime jailed Eslami in the notoriously brutal Evin Prison. He is held in Ward 209, which houses political prisoners, is reportedly run by MOIS, and is known for particularly harsh conditions for inmates.
Charge, Trial, and Conviction
The authorities charged Eslami with “cooperating with an enemy state”—namely, the U.S.—through his involvement in the aforementioned course. In an audio recording from prison, Eslami said the charges were “baseless” and said his scholarship was free of “political, security and foreign-relations issues.”
Eslami’s trial began on October 20, 2020, in Branch 15 of Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Court. He was tried before Revolutionary Court Judge Abolqassem Salavati, who is nicknamed “the Hanging Judge” or “the Judge of Death” for imposing harsh sentences in political cases.
In February 2021, he was convicted and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and prohibited from traveling abroad or teaching. On appeal, his sentence was reduced to five years. After Eslami was sentenced, he was reportedly put in the general population of Evin.