Iran: Sentencing of seven human rights defenders to long-term prison terms

12/09/2019
Urgent Appeal
en fa

IRN 007 / 0919 / OBS 072
Sentencing /
Arbitrary detention /
Torture
Iran

September 12, 2019

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) about the sentencing of seven human rights defenders to long-term prison terms in relation to union activities or the reporting on such activities in the context of the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company workers strike in Shush, Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran.

According to the information received, 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. Six of them have been in detention for several months.

The seven are:

- Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Spokesperson of the independent Workers Syndicate of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, who 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, a member of the Workers Syndicate of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, who 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, a young labour rights activist who worked to support the ongoing protests by Haft Tappeh workers, who 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, four journalists and editorial members of an online magazine called Gam (Step), which reported on social justice issues, including labour rights, and publicised the grievances of the workers of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company, who 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).

Six of the activists have received the maximum sentence stipulated by the Islamic Penal Code for each charge, which was increased by half based on the multiplicity of charges. If the convictions and prison sentences for the above-mentioned defendants are upheld on appeal, they will have to serve the longest of the prison sentences each of them receives.

The Observatory expresses its strong concern over the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Ms. Sepideh Gholian, Ms. Asal Mohammadi, Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari, Mr. Amir Amirgholi, as well as the sentencing of Mr. Mohammad Khanifar, which seem 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 the six labour rights defenders and to put an end to harassments, including at the judicial level, against all 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 [1]. 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 was released on bail on December 12, and Ms. Gholian on December 18. 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 on January 20, 2019 and are since then being detained respectively in Evin prison and Shahr-e Rey prison outside Tehran.

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 being detained in Evin prison.

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

Mr. Amir Amirgholi was arrested on January 16, 2019 and is being detained in Evin prison.

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 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;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Esmail Bakhshi, Ms. Sepideh Gholian, Ms. Asal Mohammadi, Mr. Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Ms. Sanaz Alahyari and Mr. Amir Amirgholi and all human rights defenders detained in the country, as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture against Mr. Esmail Bakhshi and Ms. Sepideh Gholian, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and punish them as provided by the law; and ensure that adequate, effective and prompt reparation, including adequate compensation and rehabilitation, is granted to Mr. Esmail Bakhshi and Ms. Sepideh Gholian;

iv. 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;

v. 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;

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. 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.

***

Read more
appelobs