Ahvaz (Iran): Attorneys Protest Against the Denial of Defendant's rights (2006)
ABF Notice: In the wake of the 2005 Ahvaz (Kuzestan province) popular demonstrations, and the following bombing campaign in Khuzestan province, security forces arrested tens of Arab-Iranian activists in the region. Ahavaz Revolutionary prosecutor reported that four investigations had been opened and charges had been brought against 45 individuals (ISNA 28/02/2006). The detainees were kept in solitary confinement for months. They were then tried individually (without the presence of co-defendants) in Camera by the special Branch of Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court. Many of the defendants were sentenced to death, and 20 convicts were executed between March 2006 and January 2008. The violation of due process of law during the arrest, detention and trial of the defendants resulted in a wave of protests from both national and international human rights organizations. In the spring of 2006 (exact date unknown), seven lawyers, hired by some of the defendants, wrote and published a protest letter to the judge presiding the Special Branch of Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court. In this letter they deplore the violation of due process and the fact that they were not allowed to meet with their clients and that they were denied the time necessary to read the case files and prepare a proper defense. The counsels declared that they would leave the Court if their demands were not met. Upon the publication of this letter, instead of remedying the gross violation of due process in this case, the judicial authorities, summoned the authors of this letter to court and accused them of “Perturbing National Security.” ABF English translation of this letter is published here.
Honorable Head of Ahvaz Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch Three
Peace Be Upon You. We, a number of attorneys representing the defendants in Case number 294/8, would respectfully like to state the following:
We are well aware of Your Honor’s special diligence in carrying out the Honorable Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi’s fundamental policy of conducting fair trials and protecting the rights of defendants. One instance of defendants’ rights is the right to choose and have the support of counsel, which is one of the Constitution (Principle 35) and other relevant laws’ most brilliant principles. Some of us were informed of the trial date of May 23, 2006, at most 2 days [in some cases] or one day [in others] prior to trial. Although we made every effort to read the case file, because of the voluminous content of the file, however, which is about 800 pages, it was not possible to study the same and take notes in such a short time. Even in a simple case, the minimum required time between notification of the trial date and the trial itself is five days (Code of Civil Procedure, Article 64). Some of us had submitted written requests to Your Honor as well as made oral pleas to have confidential meetings with our clients. Unfortunately, however, in spite of the fact that this request [and the aforementioned right] are among a defendant’s most obvious rights as well as an attorney’s, to which even Ayatollah Shahrudi himself has made reference and emphasized, Your Honor denied our request to meet with our clients. In his latest remarks on June 20, 2006, Ayatollah Shahrudi stated: “No one shall issue an order which deprives the defendant of his/her right to meet with his/her family or his/her lawyer. The defendant must know [and be made] well aware of his right to request a time for a confidential meeting with his/her attorney.”
We are certain that Your Honor will agree that we have not been able to read parts or all of the case file, and that we have thus far been prevented from meeting with our clients. How could we possibly defend our clients who have been charged with armed uprising, one of the punishments for which is death? We, therefore, in order to conduct a fair trial, humbly request that Your Honor agree that the trial session be delayed for at least 10 to 15 days so that we can read the file and have a confidential meeting with our clients, so that, Allah willing, we can fulfill our duties as legal counsel. Further, it must be noted that the trial session was conducted on an individual basis and without the presence of other defendants and their attorneys, which itself is against the law. In closing, we humbly state that, in the event that our lawful request is not granted, we will have no choice but to leave the courtroom in protest of this unprincipled and illegal manner of adjudication.
Signed: Feisal Sa’idi, Javad (last name illegible), Khalil Sa’idi, Hamid (last name illegible), Mansur (last name illegible), illegible, Abdolhossein Heydari.
Cc: Honorable Head of the Judiciary Branch