Iran: Conditional release of Abdolfattah Soltani!

23/11/2018
Urgent Appeal
en fa

New information
IRN 005 / 0711 / OBS 098.2
Conditional release /
Judicial harassment
Iran
November 23, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Iran.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) about the conditional release of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, lawyer and founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC).

According to the information received, on November 21, 2018, Branch 54 of the Tehran Appeals Court, upon the approval of the Tehran Prosecutor, granted Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani conditional parole and release [1] after serving more than half of his 13-year prison sentence [2]. Following an unfair trial, on June 13, 2012, Mr. Soltani had been sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment on various charges, including “propaganda against the system” and “assembly and collusion against national security” [3] (see background information below). Mr. Soltani served more than seven years in Tehran’s Evin prison at the date of his conditional release.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani 13-year sentence was commuted to 10 years under Article 134 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, and his 10-year ban on practising law reduced to two years.

A previous parole request had been denied on July 8, 2018. On August 4, 2018, Mr. Soltani was given an 85-day leave from prison to attend the funeral of his 27-year-old daughter, Homa Soltani. He went back to prison on October 28, 2018.

Mr. Soltani has repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest against his prison conditions and demand his immediate and unconditional release. On March 26, 2018, he suspended his last hunger strike - undertaken five days earlier - at the request of thousands of civil society activists who were concerned for his life.

Responding to a petition from the Observatory, in February 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared the detention of Mr. Soltani’s “arbitrary” and was linked to his work as a human rights defender. The WGAD called on the Iranian Government to release him immediately [4].

The Observatory welcomes the conditional release of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, thanks all individuals, organisations, and institutions who intervened in his favour, but recalls that he should have never been detained in the first place. The Observatory remains deeply concerned about Mr. Soltani’s situation, and calls on the Iranian authorities to lift immediately and unconditionally the ban on Mr. Soltani’s practice of his profession and to end all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in Iran.

Background information:

On September 10, 2011, Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani was arrested outside the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran by police officers who had an arrest warrant for him. In the afternoon, his house and offices were also searched by four agents who seized CDs, papers, documents and his children’s laptop without warrant [5]. Mr. Soltani was held in solitary confinement at the Ministry of Intelligence’s Section 209 inside Tehran’s Evin prison.

On March 4, 2012, the lawyers of Mr. Soltani were informed that the Islamic Revolution Court (Branch 26) had condemned him to 18 years’ imprisonment in “internal exile” and a 20-year ban on practising law on charges of “propaganda against the system”, “assembly and collusion against national security”, as well as “earning illegitimate assets” as a laureate of the Nuremberg City Human Rights prize in 2009.

On June 10, 2012, the relatives of Mr. Soltani were informed that Branch 54 of the Tehran’s Appeals Court had reduced Mr. Soltani’s prison sentence to 13 years’ imprisonment in “internal exile” in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr Province) and reduced the ban on practising law to 10 years. The imprisonment in exile was contrary to Iranian laws as the latter do not provide for this type of sentence. The laws provide either for “imprisonment” or for “exile” in another part of the country. In addition, the exile to Borazjan prison made family visits extremely difficult, as Mr. Soltanis’ relatives had to travel hundreds of kilometres back and forth every time for a short visit. The authorities decided later not to carry out the “internal exile” part of the sentence.

The sentence was later reduced to 10 years under Article 134 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, which provides that if a prisoner is sentenced to several prison terms on different charges, he would serve only the highest sentence. In this case, the highest sentence was 10 years.

Prior to the issuing of the sentence on appeal, interrogators of the Ministry of Intelligence had reportedly pressured Mr. Soltani into incriminating himself and the DHRC in exchange for leniency, including the cancellation of the sentence of internal exile, which he refused.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Iran asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani and all human rights defenders in Iran;

ii. Unconditionally release Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally lift the ban on Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani’s practice of his profession;

iv. Grant compensation to Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani for the years he spent in prison, as requested by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, and 12;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Iran.

Addresses:

• Leader of the Islamic Republic, H.E. Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Fax: + 98 21 441 2030, Email: info_leader@leader.ir; Twitter: @khamenei_ir
• President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98 21 644 54811; Email: media@rouhani.ir; Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian).
• Head of the Judiciary, H.E. Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98 21 879 6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567, Email: info@dadiran.ir / info@dadgostary-tehran.ir / info@bia-judiciary.ir
• Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98-21-66743149; matbuat@mfa.gov.ir
• Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammed Javad Larijani, Islamic Republic of Iran. Email: info@humanrights-iran.ir
• H.E. Mr. Javad Amin-Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email: mission.iran@ties.itu.int
• H.E. Mr. Peiman Seadat, Ambassador, Embassy of Iran in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15. Email: secreteriat@iranembassy.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iran in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 23, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

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 ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani may have to serve the remainder of the sentence if he repeats the previous « offense », in addition to any new sentence.
[2] Under the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, a prisoner sentenced to 10 years or more would qualify for conditional release after serving half of the sentence.
[3] See the Observatory Press Release published on June 13, 2012.
[4] See the Observatory Press Release published on February 6, 2013.
[5] See the Observatory Urgent Appeal IRN 005 / 0711 / OBS 098.1 published on September 12, 2011.

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