IRAN: Relentless judicial harassment against DHRC continues with the sentencing of Nargess Mohammadi to six years of prison

Urgent Appeal
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Paris-Geneva, March 6, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), deplores the relentless harassment of members of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) and more particularly the sentencing on appeal of Ms. Nargess Mohammadi to six years of prison.

On February 14, 2012, Ms. Nargess Mohammadi, Spokesperson and Vice-President of the DHRC, was sentenced on appeal to six years in prison on charges of “assembly and collusion against the national security”, “membership of the DHRC” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. Ms. Nargess Mohammadi’s lawyer was notified of the decision only on March 4, 2012. Today, Ms. Mohammadi is at risk of imminent arrest.

Since the contested 2009 June election, several DHRC members have been subjected to judicial harassment and discriminatory treatment while in detention. The Observatory recalls that Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, lawyer and DHRC founding member, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in internal exile in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr province) by the Islamic Revolution Court Branch 26 and remains currently detained in Section 209 of Evin prison. Several other DHRC members, including Messrs. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Mohammad Seifzadeh, Abdolreza Tajik and Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, have also faced an intense criminalisation campaign since the closure of the centre in December 2008.

Founding and leading members of the DHRC have therefore been consistently under strong pressure to resign and denounce the DHRC and the Iranian Peace Nobel Laureate and DHRC Founder Ms. Shirin Ebadi.

The authorities effectively criminalise human rights legal representation and attempt to stifle human rights work in the country”, says Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “We fear that the harassment against DHRC and attempts to silence Shirin Ebadi for her continued human rights work will continue”.

The authorities in Iran are doing their utmost to marginalise human rights defenders by imposing heavy sentences of imprisonment, exile, and ban on professional practice. Prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners are consistently subjected to torture and other ill treatment as well as the death penalty. All this is aimed to intimidating the whole society into a deadly silence”, adds Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The Observatory believes that the sentence against Ms. Nargess Mohammadi merely aims at intimidating her and impeding her from carrying out her human rights activities. More generally, it also aims at intimidating all human rights defenders in Iran.

The Observatory therefore urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to the judicial harassment against Ms. Nargess Mohammadi and release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, and more generally to conform to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Iran.

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