Iran: Conviction on appeal of 7 human rights defenders

18/12/2019
Urgent Appeal
en fa

New information
IRN 007 / 0919 / OBS 072.2

Sentencing /
Judicial harassment /
Torture
Iran
December 18, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a 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 conviction on appeal of the following human rights defenders: Ms. Sepideh Gholian, a young labour rights activist; Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Spokesperson of the independent Workers Syndicate of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company; Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, another member of the Workers Syndicate of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company; and Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, Mr. Amir Amirgholi, and Ms. Asal Mohammadi, four journalists of an online magazine called Gam [Step].

According to the information received, on December 14, 2019, the Court of Appeals of Teheran upheld the conviction of the seven human rights defenders on charges of “gathering and collusion against national security” (Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code) and sentenced them to five years in prison each, in relation to union activities or reporting on such activities in the context of the strike by workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company [1] in Shush, Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran (see background information). All seven are still free but may be arrested at any time.

The court also upheld the conviction and two-year prison sentence against Mr. Esmail Bakhshi on charge of “insulting the Supreme Leader” (Article 514). Mr. Bakhshi will serve his sentences concurrently.

The Observatory expresses its concerns over the conviction and judicial harassment against Ms. Sepideh Gholian , Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, Mr. Amir Amirgholi, Ms. Asal Mohammadi, and Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, which seem to be aimed only at punishing them for their legitimate defence of workers’ rights. The Observatory calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to any acts of harassment against them , as well as all other human rights defenders in Iran.

Background information:

In November 2018, workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, located in Shush, Khuzestan Province, began a month-long strike. They were demanding the payment of months of unpaid wages and the return of the agro-industrial complex’s ownership to the public sector. Haft Tappeh is the largest sugarcane factory in Iran and employs thousands of workers.

On November 18, 2018, Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Ms. Sepideh Gholian and Mr. Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, three labour rights activists, were arrested. Mr. Bakhshi and Ms. Gholian were released on bail on December 12 and 18, 2018, respectively. They were forced to incriminate themselves under torture and their “confessions” were televised. After being released, they revealed that they had been tortured and forced to confess. They were re-arrested in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, on January 20, 2019. Ms. Gholian was detained in Sepidar prison until April 28, 2019, before being transferred to Evin prison until June 3, 2019, when she was transferred to Qarchak prison. Mr. Bakhshi was detained in Shayban prison in Ahvaz, until April 28, 2019, and then transferred to Evin prison.Mr. Mohammad Khanifar was released on bail on November 22, 2018.

Four online journalists who reported on social justice issues, including labour rights, and publicised the grievances of the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, were also arrested:
- Ms. Asal Mohammadi was arrested on December 4, 2018, released on bail on January 5, 2019, re-arrested on August 4, 2019 and released on bail on November 2, 2019.
- Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard and Ms. Sanaz Alahyari were both arrested on January 9, 2019, and detained in the Ministry of Intelligence’s Ward 209 in Tehran’s Evin prison.
- Mr. Amir Amirgholi was arrested at his home in Babolsar, Mazandaran Province, on January 14, 2019, and was initially detained in Evin prison. He was transferred to Shayban prison in Ahvaz after one month and then back to Evin prison on April 28, 2019.

On September 7, 2019, Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran sentenced the seven defenders to long prison terms ranging from six to 18 years in prison, after unfair trials in August. They all appealed the sentences.

In October and early November 2019, all defenders who were still detained were released on bail.

On October 26, 2019, Ms. Sepideh Gholian was released from Qarchak prison in Varamin, south of Tehran, on a bail of five billion Rials (around 119,000 USD). Ms. Gholian was released one day after ending a five-day hunger strike to protest against her conditions of detention and the Intelligence Ministry’s harassment of her family. Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard and Ms. Sanaz Alahyari were released from Tehran’s Evin prison on bail of 8.5 billion Rials (around 202,000 USD) each. Mr. Amir Amirgholi was released from Evin Prison on a bail of 15 billion Rials (around 356,000 USD).

On October 30, 2019, Mr. Esmail Bakhshi was released on a bail of 7.5 billion Rials (around 178,000 USD).

On November 2, 2019, Ms. Asal Mohammadi was released on bail of 20 billion Rials (around 474,000 USD).

Moreover, in a separate incident, Mr. Mohammad Khanifar was arrested by local judicial officials together with five other Workers Syndicate members, Messrs. Ebrahim Abbasi-Monjazi, Moslem Cheshm-Khavar, Mahmoud Khodaei, Iman Akhzari, Yussef Bahmani, while they were on their way to Tehran for meetings with Members of Parliament on October 7, 2019. The six were released on bail on October 9, 2019.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Iran asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Sepideh Gholian, Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, Mr. Amir Amirgholi, Ms. Asal Mohammadi and Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, as well as all human rights defenders in Iran;

ii. Drop all charges, and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Sepideh Gholian, Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, Mr. Amir Amirgholi, Ms. Asal Mohammadi and Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, and all other human rights defenders in Iran, and ensure they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iii. Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iv. Conform to 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, 6, 9, 11 and 12;

v. 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. Hojattolislam Ebrahim Ra’eesi, 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. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, 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, December 18, 2019

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

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[1] The Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company was sold to a private company by the authorities in 2015. The latter soon accrued large debts, mostly owed to public utilities and tax authorities. To address the problem, the owners decided to withhold salaries, wages, and pensions. This decision triggered strikes.

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