IRAN: Arbitrary conviction of Abdolfattah Soltani’s spouse in an attempt to silence human rights defenders and their families

Paris-Geneva, November 20, 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), is appalled by the sentencing of  human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani’s spouse.
According to information received from the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI), on October 29, 2012, Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court sentenced Ms. Massumeh Dehghan, the wife of lawyer and founding member of Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) Abdolfattah Soltani, to one year of imprisonment, suspended for five years, and banned her from travelling abroad for five years, on charges of “propaganda against the system” pursuant to Articles 500 and 19 of the Islamic Penal Code, respectively. The court ruling cited her travelling abroad twice, in 2009 and 2010, in order to receive the human rights prize of the city of Nuremberg on behalf of her husband. Ms. Massumeh Dehghan was notified of this sentence on November 17 and has 20 days to appeal it.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first act of intimidation against Ms. Massumeh Dehghan. From July 5 to 10, 2011, she was detained in solitary confinement by the Islamic Revolution Court branch based in Evin prison and was pressured to cooperate with security agents and to make false confessions against her husband, who is currently detained in Evin prison but has been sentenced to 13 years in prison in internal exile in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr province), 1,200 km away from his family’s residence.

“This unfair conviction merely aims at intimidating her and sanctioning her husband’s human rights activities”, says Ms. Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “Not only are human rights defenders jailed, but their family members are constantly harassed and intimidated. This policy of harassment against human rights defenders is unacceptable”.

The Observatory further recalls that this sentencing is part of a general crackdown against the Iranian civil society. In this context, various acts of judicial harassment and arbitrary detentions have targeted several DHRC members over the past years, especially after the disputed 2009 presidential election. Indeed, besides Mr. Soltani, Ms. Nasrin Soutoudeh, Messrs. Mohammad Seifzadeh and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah are respectively serving prison terms of six, two and nine years.

“We condemn the relentless campaign of intimidation of human rights defenders and their relatives in Iran, and denounce this new conviction. It is of vital importance that the Iranian authorities face up to their responsibilities and conform in all circumstances to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all international human rights instruments ratified by Iran”, added Mr. Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against Ms. Dehghan as well as to release immediately and unconditionally all human rights defenders detained.

For further information, please contact:
FIDH: Arthur Manet / Audrey Couprie: + 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39

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