Iran: Release on bail of 5 HRDs

30/10/2019
Urgent Appeal
en fa

New information
IRN 007 / 0919 / OBS 072.1
Release on bail /
Arbitrary detention
Iran
October 30, 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 release on bail of Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Spokesperson of the independent Workers Syndicate of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, Ms. Sepideh Gholian, a young labour rights activist, Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, and Mr. Amir Amirgholi, three journalists and editorial members of an online magazine called Gam [Step], as well as the ongoing arbitrary detention of their colleague, Ms. Asal Mohammadi. The six human rights defenders were sentenced to long prison terms in relation to union activities or the reporting on such activities in the context of the strike [1] by workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company in Shush, Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran (see background information) [2]. Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, another member of the Workers Syndicate of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, was arbitrarily arrested from October 7 to 9, 2019, but remains free on bail.

According to the information received, on October 30, 2019, Mr. Esmail Bakhshi was released on a bail of 7.5 billion Rials.

On October 26, 2019, Ms. Sepideh Gholian was released from Qarchak Prison in Varamin, south of Tehran, on a bail of 5 billion Rials (around 118,600 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 after depositing a bail of 8.5 billion Rials (around 201,625 USD) each. Mr. Amir Amirgholi was released from Evin Prison on a bail of 15 billion Rials (around 355,800 USD).

Ms. Asal Mohammadi was not released on bail, and is still detained in Evin prison.

Mr. Mohammad Khanifar was arrested by local judicial officials together with five other Workers Syndicate members 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.

The Observatory welcomes the release on bail of the above-mentioned human rights defenders but recalls that they should never have been detained in the first place. Their detention was arbitrary, as it seemed to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate defence of workers’ rights. The Observatory calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Asal Mohammadi, and to put an end to any act of harassment against Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Ms. Sepideh Gholian, Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, Ms. Asal Mohammadi, and Mr. Amir Amirgholi, 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, several labour rights activists were arrested.

Mr. Esmail Bakhshi and Ms. Sepideh Gholian were both arrested on November 18, 2018. Mr. Bakhshi and Ms. Gholian were released on bail on December 12 and 18, 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 arrested on November 18, 2018 and released on November 22, 2018.

Ms. Asal Mohammadi was arrested on December 4, 2018, released on bail on January 5, 2019, and re-arrested on August 4. She is still detained in Evin prison.

Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard and Ms. Sanaz Alahyari were both arrested on January 9, 2019, and were detained in Ministry of Intelligence’s Ward 209 in Tehran’s Evin prison.

Mr. Amir Amirgholi was arrested in his home in the northern city of Babolsar on January 14, 2019, and was initially detained in Evin prison. He was transferred to Shayban prison of Ahvaz after one month and then back to Evin prison on 28 April 2019.

On September 7, 2019, Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran sentenced three labour rights defenders and four online journalists to lengthy prison terms, after unfair trials in August:

Mr. Esmail Bakhshi was sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison and 74 lashes: seven years for “gathering and collusion against internal or external security” (Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code); two years for “insulting the Supreme Leader” (Article 514); two years for “spreading falsehoods with intent to disturb the public opinion” (Article 698); one year and six months for “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500); and one year and six months and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order” (Article 510).

Mr. Mohammad Khanifar was sentenced to a total of six years in prison: five years for “gathering and collusion against internal or external security” (Article 610); and one year for “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500). Mr. Khanifar is currently free on bail.

Ms. Sepideh Gholian was sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison: seven years for “gathering and collusion internal or external security” (Article 610); seven years for “membership of a group that aims to disrupt national security” (Article 499); one year and six months for “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500); and two years and six months for “spreading falsehoods with intent to disturb the public opinion” (Article 698).

Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, Ms. Asal Mohammadi, and Mr. Amir Amirgholi, who reported as journalists on social justice issues, including labour rights, and publicised the grievances of the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, were sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison each: seven years for “gathering and collusion internal or external security” (Article 610); seven years for “membership in a group that aims to disrupt national security” (Article 499); one year and six months for “spreading propaganda against the system”; and two years and six months for “spreading falsehoods with intent to disturb the public opinion” (Article 698).

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Iran asking them to:

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

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Asal Mohammadi, and all human rights defenders detained in the country, as herdetention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing her for her human rights activities;

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

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, October 30, 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

[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.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal IRN 007 / 0919 / OBS 072, published on September 12, 2019.

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