IRAN: Arbitrary detention of human rights defender Reza Eslami

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Paris-Geneva, February 15, 2021 – The Observatory and League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) are extremely concerned by the conviction and detention of human rights defender Reza Eslami for allegedly cooperating with the US government over a human rights course.

On October 20, 2020, Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran held its first hearing in the case of Reza Eslami, an Iranian-Canadian Associate Professor of Human Rights and Environmental Rights at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University, on charge of “cooperation with the US hostile government against the Islamic Republic system”. This accusation stems from his participation in organising and conducting a Rule of Law course in the Czech Republic, sponsored by an American NGO. He was later sentenced to seven years imprisonment under Article 508 of Islamic Penal Code, and banned from teaching and travelling abroad.

© Photo of Reza Eslami. Credit unknown.

Reza Eslami has been detained since May 10, 2020 by Ministry of Intelligence in the ministry’s Ward 209 in Tehran’s Evin prison. He was transferred to a dormitory ward in Evin prison after completion of interrogations, on an unknown date. He is currently being detained in Evin prison, Tehran.

The opacity surrounding the conviction and sentencing of Reza Eslami raises serious concerns over his well-being. The Observatory and LDDHI denounce this sentencing as being politically motivated as it is only aimed at punishing him for his human rights activities. Both organisations demand his immediate release and the withdrawal of the charges against him.

The Observatory and LDDHI recall that scores of human rights defenders remain behind bars in Iran as a punishment for their legitimate human rights activities. Given the poor detention conditions in the country’s detention facilities, the high risk of contracting COVID-19, and the arbitrary deprivation of their liberty, our organisations reiterate our call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

The League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) was founded in Paris in March 1983, following the forced closure of the “Iranian Association for the Defence of Human Rights and Liberties” (established in 1977) in 1981, and the departure of its leaders into exile. Since its establishment, LDDHI has consistently reported and campaigned against human rights violations in Iran, concentrating on the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, women’s rights, freedom of political prisoners, rights of religious and ethnic minorities, freedoms of expression, assembly and association among others. LDDHI has been a member of FIDH since 1986.

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