Iran: Human Rights Defender at risk: Abdolfattah Soltani - Appeal case update
December 6, 2006
AI Index: MDE 13/132/2006
This is the second update to Iran: Human Rights Defender at risk appeal case (AI Index MDE 13-009-2006, February 2006)
"I received this sentence because of my beliefs, opinions and defending political defendants"
Abdolfattah Soltani was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in July 2006. He was acquitted of the charge of espionage, but was convicted of "disclosing confidential documents," for which he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment; and "propaganda against the system", for which he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. He has also been deprived of social rights for five years, which would include practicing his profession of law.
The evidential basis for the charges brought against Abdolfattah Soltani was reportedly not made clear in the charge sheet or by the prosecution during the trial. However, they are believed to relate to four cases in which he is acting as defence lawyer- two of the nuclear espionage cases; one on behalf of Zahra Kazemi’s family; and the case of a former intelligence ministry official who was charged with "acting against state security". The charge of disclosing confidential information is believed to mean discussing details of these cases, which his lawyers argue is not a valid charge.
According to reports, the verdict was issued with neither Abdolfattah Soltani nor his lawyers being summoned to court to hear it, and they were not given a copy of the verdict. Of his trial and the verdict, he said, "Neither me nor my lawyers were called for the court session mentioned in the verdict. We were unable to defend my case because we never saw the main evidence listed in the indictment."
Abdolfattah Soltani is currently free from prison on bail while he appeals his sentence. According to his lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, the appeal cites "the failure to observe the rules and regulations during the defendant’s arrest and implementation of the preliminary investigations pertaining to Soltani's case. We have also objected to the charges against him."
Amnesty International believes that the charge of "propaganda against the system" on which Abdolfattah Soltani has been convicted is vaguely worded and does not appear to constitute a recognizably criminal offence. Moreover, the organization believes the charges are politically motivated, and appear to have been brought against him in order to prevent or deter him from pursuing his legitimate peaceful activities as a human rights defender and to discourage other lawyers and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) from pursuing cases against official impunity or representing defendants in political cases. Article 9 of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (known as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders) enshrines the right to "offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms". Principle 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states: "Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; … (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics".
Amnesty International calls for the case against Abdolfattah Soltani to be dropped officially by the Iranian authorities. If his appeal is rejected and, as a consequence, he is re-arrested and imprisoned to serve his sentence, Amnesty International would consider Abdolfattah Soltani a prisoner of conscience and would call for his immediate and unconditional release. He should also not be restricted from practicing law or from any other legitimate peaceful activity as an HRD.
Abdolfattah Soltani has stated "my crime is accepting political cases including cases of journalists, students, and two nuclear defendants…otherwise, I did not break the law. They are trying to treat me in a way so that no other lawyer would accept political cases."
Many thanks to all those who sent appeals on Abdolfattah Soltani’s behalf.
AI was thanked for its action on behalf of Abdolfattah Soltani by a member of his legal team, who said that AI’s "support of the defenders of human rights is very crucial".
Please continue to send politely worded appeals:
- calling for the case against lawyer and Human Rights Defender Abdolfattah Soltani to be dropped without delay;
- stating that the charge of "propaganda against the system" of which Abdolfattah Soltani has been convicted is vaguely worded and does not appear to constitute a recognizably criminal offence;
- expressing concern that the charges brought against Abdolfattah Soltani appear to be politically motivated and intended to prevent or deter him from pursuing his legitimate peaceful activities as a human rights defender, and to deter other lawyers and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) from involvement in cases against official impunity or in which defendants are accused of political offences.
- stating that were Abdolfattah Soltani to be re-arrested and imprisoned on these charges, Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and would call for his immediate and unconditional release;
- calling on the judicial authorities and government to develop national plans of action to implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as an important first step to ensure that human rights defenders are able to safely carry out their legitimate work without fear.
PLEASE SEND YOUR APPEALS TO:
Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: + 98 251 7 774 2228 (mark "FAO the Office of HE Ayatollah al Udhma Khamenei")
Salutation: Your Excellency
Head of the Judiciary
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email via website:
Salutation: Your Excellency
Please continue to show your solidarity with Abdolfattah Soltani, by writing to him care of the Iranian Bar Association:
C/O Iranian Bar Association
Attn: Human Rights Committee
No. 3, Zagros St, Argentina Sq
Islamic Republic of Iran