Iran: Amnesty International condemns continued repression of human rights defenders
October 16, 2007
AI Index: MDE 13/117/2007 (Public)
News Service No: 198
Iran: Amnesty International condemns continued repression of human rights defenders
Amnesty International today again expressed its deep concern at continuing repression of human rights defenders and civil society activists in Iran which has deepened in recent months.
Imprisonment of Emaddedin Baghi
One of Iran's best known human rights defenders, Emaddedin Baghi, the head of the Association for the Defence of Prisoners Rights and leading anti-death penalty campaigner, was detained on 14 October when he attended a session before Branch 14 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. His lawyers were not allowed to attend the session with him. Although bail of 50 million Iranian Touman (USD 53,619) was reportedly set for his release, when his family attempted to meet the bail, the judge apparently refused to accept it.
He was detained on the basis of a suspended sentence of one year’s imprisonment handed down in 2002. It is not clear where Emaddedin Baghi is currently being held.
Emaddedin Baghi also faces other politically motivated criminal charges: in July 2007 he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, two of which related to the charge of meeting and colluding to commit offences against national security, and one year to the charge of propaganda against the system for the benefit of foreign and opposition groups. His lawyer said that the evidence against him included media interviews and letters to the authorities regarding Ahwazi Arabs sentenced to death in connection with lethal bomb explosions in Khuzestan province. Four other people, including Emaddedin Baghi’s wife and daughter were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years, in the same case. Their charges were said to relate to their participation in a human rights conference held in the United Arab Emirates. All remained free pending appeal.
Amnesty International considers the charges against Emaddedin Baghi to be politically motivated and aimed at silencing the human rights defender’s criticism of the human rights situation in Iran. The organisation considers him a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
Women’s rights activists
Activists in the Campaign for Equality who are demanding an end to legalised discrimination against women in Iran are also continuing to face harassment and arrest. Most recently, 21 year-old Ronak Safazadeh was arrested in Sanandaj, the capital of Kordestan province, on 9 October 2007. Ronak Safazadeh is a member of the Campaign for Equality, as well as a member of Azar Mehr, an NGO in Sanandaj. On 8 October, she had attended a meeting on the International Day of the Child in Sanandaj, during which she had collected signatures in support of the Campaign for Equality. The following day, security officials reportedly came to her house at 08.20, confiscated her computer, copies of the Campaign’s petition and a booklet produced by the Campaign, and then detained Ronak Safazadeh. After six days, her mother was permitted a brief telephone conversation with her daughter. It is not clear where she is being held.
In September, at least 25 people (including five members of the Campaign’s Education committee who had travelled from Tehran) were arrested during an educational workshop held by the Campaign in a private house in Khorramabad, Lorestan province. Of these 22 were released later that night, after being questioned about the Campaign’s activities; the other three, Reza Dolatshah, Bahman Azadi, and Khosrow Nasimpour, who are social activists in the city of Khorramabad were released the following day, although they were beaten while in custody.
Women’s rights activists are also continuing to face trial proceedings in connection with their activities. Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh were both recently summoned to court. Both were among 33 women arrested in March 2007 during a peaceful gathering outside a court where five other women were on trial. They were released on bail after two weeks in detention. Farideh Ghayrat, a lawyer, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) on 14 October that their case was under consideration by the Special section for security of the Tehran General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office, and that the charge against her clients was acting against national security, although it had not been confirmed that it was connected to the March gathering outside the courtroom, although she expected this to be the case.
In September, journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amou’i was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after being convicted of acting against state security. He had been detained for a week following a peaceful demonstration in June 2006 which called for equal rights for women. The evidence against him reportedly included a number of open letters to Iran’s parliament, or Majles, that he had signed, including one supporting the June 2006 demonstration.
According to the Iranian Teachers’ Association, dozens of the hundreds of teachers arrested during peaceful demonstrations earlier in 2007 have been sentenced to dismissal or exile. At least two have received suspended prison sentences: Mohammad Reza Rezai-Gorkani and Rasul Badaqi received two-year and three-year suspended sentences respectively. Their lawyer, Hushang Purbabai, told ISNA on 9 October that both were convicted of acting against national security.
A strike by workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Plant in Khuzestan Province, who had reportedly received no wages or benefits for over three months, was forcibly broken up by security forces on 3 October. The workers had staged a series of around 15 strikes over more than a year. In August, they had written an open letter to the International Labour Organization, announcing their determination to continue strike action if their demands, which include the right to participate in the election of their own representatives, were not met. There are unconfirmed reports that at least two workers, Ramazan Alipour and Fereydoun Nikofar, were arrested after being summoned to an Intelligence Ministry facility.
According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization, five Kurdish workers’ activists have reportedly been sentenced to three months imprisonment and 40 lashes for “disturbing public security”. The sentences were suspended for 3 years, during which time they have reportedly been banned from meeting “prominent” political and social figures. They had reportedly been detained for several days earlier in the year during a demonstration protesting at the arrest of another workers’ rights activist, Mahmoud Salehi in April 2007.
Kurdish human rights defenders have reported a new wave of arrests and sentences of civil society and student activists. For example, Yasser Gholi, the former head of the Kurdish Democratic student’s union who had been banned from studying, was reportedly arrested on 10 October in Sanandaj by security forces that also searched his home and confiscated his computer and other personal items. Ako Kordnasab, a journalist with the newspaper Gerefto, has reportedly been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for espionage.
Amnesty International continues to call on he Iranian authorities to uphold the rights to freedom of association and expression and to end its repression of human rights defenders. The organization urges the authorities to implement the measures provided for in the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration on human rights defenders, adopted in 1998. The full name of General Assembly Resolution A/RES/53/144 is the ‘Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms’ and can be viewed at:http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N99/770/89/PDF/N9977089.pdf?OpenElement
Amnesty International continues to campaign for the release of all prisoners of conscience, for those accused of offences to be tried in full accordance with international fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty, and for all reports of torture or other ill-treatment of prisoners to be rapidly, thoroughly and independently investigated and for any officials responsible for torturing or abusing prisoners to be brought to justice.