Iran: Sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights lawyers

13/02/2019
Urgent Appeal
en fa

New information
IRN 004 / 0918 / OBS 115.2
Sentencing/
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Iran
February 13, 2019

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 sentencing and arbitrary detention of Messrs. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani, Mostafa Daneshju, the sentencing of Messrs. Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi, Arash Kaykhosravi, and Mohammad Najafi, and the arbitrary detention of Mr. Amir Salar Davoodi. All six are human rights lawyers.

According to the information received, on February 3, 2019, Mr. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani entered Tehran’s Evin prison to serve a six-month prison sentence. He has been sentenced by Branch 1060 of the Criminal Court of Tehran on January 15, 2019, to ten months’ imprisonment and 40 lashes. The Court of Appeal subsequently commuted the sentence to six months in prison and suspended the 40 lashes for a period of one year. Mr. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani has been charged with “defamation” (Article 696 of the Islamic Penal Code), for “publishing the non-finalised sentence of Mr. Saeed Mortazavi [1] in an interview with a news agency”. This is not the first time Mr. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani has faced judicial harassment (see background information).

On January 22, 2019, Branch 102 of the Criminal Court in Shazand, Markazi Province, sentenced Mr. Mohammad Najafi to two years’ imprisonment and 40 million rials (approximately 300 Euros) fine under Article 698 of the Islamic Penal Code (“disturbing the public opinion”) for “disturbing the public opinion by means of spreading lies in cyberspace by publishing a [critically worded] [2] letter to the Leader on his Instagram page”. Mr. Najafi intends to appeal this sentence on the grounds that he has been tried and sentenced for the same charge several times [3]. Mr. Najafi, who has been subjected to other criminal cases for his human rights activities, is currently serving a three-year prison sentence in another case in the city of Arak, Markazi Province (see background information).

On January 21, 2019, Mr. Amir Salar Davoodi, detained since November 20, 2018, was charged with “insulting the Leader” (Article 514 of the Islamic Penal Code) and “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500) and his case was referred to Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court of Tehran. Although his parents were allowed to visit him on January 21, 2019, he was still denied visits from his wife, Ms. Tannaz Kolahchian, who is also a lawyer. Ms. Tannaz Kolahchian was summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office on January 5, 2019 and interrogated on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500), but her case was later closed.

On December 10, 2018, Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court of Tehran sentenced Messrs. Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Kaykhosravi to six years’ imprisonment: five years for “gathering and colluding against national security” (Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code) and one year for “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500). They will appeal the sentence.

On December 7, 2018, Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolution Court sentenced Mr. Mostafa Daneshju (aka Daneshjoo) to eight years’ imprisonment: five years for “gathering and colluding against national security” (Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code), two years for “disturbing the public opinion” (Article 698), and one year for “spreading propaganda against the system” (Article 500) (see background information).

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the ongoing wave of arrests, detentions, and acts of judicial harassment against human rights defenders, in particular lawyers [4], which appear to aim at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all detained human rights defenders, and to guarantee in all circumstances their physical integrity and psychological well-being.

Background information:

On July 8, 2018, Mr. Mostafa Daneshju was arrested by armed security forces who broke down the door of his mother’s home in Tehran. Security forces presented an arrest warrant from Branch 3 of the Prosecutor’s Office based in Tehran’s Evin prison. After spending 45 days in solitary confinement in Ward 209, he was transferred to Evin prison’s Quarantine Ward before being taken to Ward 4. The authorities did not provide any reasons for Mr. Daneshju’s arrest. Mr. Daneshju is suffering from cardiac problems and asthma, and authorities are denying him proper medical care. On July 21, 2018, Mr. Daneshju was taken to Taleqani hospital and returned to prison without receiving care. On January 13, 2019, he was taken to Baqiyatullah hospital and returned to prison without receiving care. Mr Daneshju’s lawyer reported on January 22, 2019, that fifty percent of his lungs were not functioning anymore, but the authorities were refusing to send him to hospital. Over the years, Mr. Daneshju has defended numerous Gonabadi Dervishes and served several prison terms as retaliation to his human rights activities.

On July 26, 2018, Mr. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani was summoned by the Office of the Prosecutor for Culture and Media for questioning and accused of “spreading false information”. The accusations were related to tweets he published about university professor and environmental activist Mr. Kavous Seyed-Emami, who died while in custody of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his criticism of the judiciary for barring him and other defence lawyers from defending environmental activists.

On July 26, 2018, the Criminal Court Branch 102 in Arak, Markazi Province, sentenced Mr. Mohammad Najafi to a total of three years of custodial imprisonment, including two years for “disturbing the public opinion” (Article 698 of the Islamic Penal Code), and one year and 74 lashes for “disrupting [public] order” (Article 618). On October 3, 2018, the Court of Appeals in Markazi Province upheld Mr. Najafi’s conviction and prison sentence. On October 26, 2018, Mr. Najafi was detained to serve his prison sentence. The charges were related to Mr. Najafi’s acting as a defence lawyer in the case of the death of a protester in police custody in January 2018 in Arak. Mr. Najafi was represented by Mr. Arash Kaykhosravi and Mr. Derafshan. In January 2019, the Supreme Court rejected his application for a retrial in this case but the 74 lashes sentence was withdrawn in consideration of Mr. Najafi’s diabetes.

On November 26, 2018, Mr. Najafi was sentenced to a total of 13 years of imprisonment by Branch 1 of the Islamic Revolution Court of Arak, Markazi Province: two years for “spreading propaganda against the State” (Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code), one year for “insulting the Supreme Leader” (Article 514), and 10 years for “helping a hostile government” (Article 508), through interviews he gave to Voice of America, Radio Farda, and BBC Persian Service.

On August 18, 2018, Messrs. Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Kaykhosravi were arrested by security forces while they were taking part in a gathering in front of the Iranian Parliament in Tehran to protest against the Guardian Council of the Constitution’s (GCC’s) control over the election process in Iran and the vetting of candidates in all elections. The two also called for free, fair, and transparent elections [5]. They were taken to Evin prison in Tehran.

On August 19, 2018, Messrs. Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Kaykhosravi were transferred to Greater Tehran prison, located in Fashafuyeh District outside Tehran, after being charged with “gathering and colluding against national security” by Branch 5 of the Prosecutor’s Office, based inside Tehran’s Evin prison. On December 4, 2018, Mr. Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi was released on bail upon a ruling by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran. The ruling was made after a hearing on December 2, 2018. However, Mr. Arash Kaykhosravi, who was arrested with Mr. Sholeh-Saadi and was supposed to attend the same hearing but refused for unknown reasons, remained in prison until his release on bail on December 11, 2019.

On November 20, 2018, Mr. Amir Salar Davoodi was arrested in Tehran, his office and house were searched, and he was placed in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin prison. On the same day, the Prosecutor’s Office issued a one-month detention order against him. Mr. Amir Salar Davoodi has been charged with “gathering and colluding against national security” (Article 610 of Islamic Penal Code). There are two distinct cases against him at Shahid Moghaddas Prosecutor’s Office in Evin prison but details were not made available to Mr. Davoodi’s lawyer. Mr. Davoodi has previously represented a number of political prisoners and defendants belonging to religious and ethnic minorities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Iran asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani, Mohammad Najafi, Amir Salar Davoodi, Mostafa Daneshju, as well as all human rights lawyers and all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Iran;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Messrs. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani, Mostafa Daneshju, Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi, Arash Kaykhosravi, Mohammad Najafi, Amir Salar Davoodi, as well as all human rights defenders in Iran;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Mostafa Tork-Hamedani, Mostafa Daneshju, Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi, Arash Kaykhosravi, Mohammad Najafi, Amir Salar Davoodi, as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;

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. 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, February 13, 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] Mr. Tork-Hamedani was one of the lawyers representing the staff of the Social Security Organisation (SSO), who had complained against Mr. Saeed Mortazavi, former director of the SSO and ex-prosecutor of Tehran, for massive corruption and embezzlement. Mr. Mortazavi lodged a complaint against Mr. Tork-Hamedani for naming him in an interview before the finalisation of his sentence, although the name had been added by the interviewer.
[2] One quote: "Our lives are as black as your turban. Pull out your robe from neighbouring lands. Do not spend our assets for your Shiite ideology. There is enough embezzlement and corruption at home."
[3] In December 2018, the Criminal Court in Shazand, Markazi Provincesentenced Mr. Najafi to one year imprisonment on charges of “publishing lies in cyberspace” for his Instagramposts. Mr. Najafi appealed the sentence.
[4] All the cases in this appeal are mentioned in an open letter 41 lawyers sent to the Head of the Judiciary on January 24, 2019, International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, to protest against the detention and judicial harassment of their colleagues for practising their profession.
[5] The GCC is responsible for supervising all national public elections, interpreting the Constitution, examining qualifications of candidates for presidential, Parliamentary and Assembly of Experts (AE) elections, as well as ensuring the compatibility of the legislation passed by the Parliament with the criteria of Islam and the constitution. The body exercises discretionary power over all electoral processes and can disqualify any candidates before and after elections without providing reasons.

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