June 5, 2019 – Amirsalar Davoudi has become the third known defense attorney to be sent to prison in Iran for his peaceful activities in less than a year, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement today.
On June 1, 2019, his wife Tannaz Kolahchian tweeted that Davoudi had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the content of his social media posts, 15 years of which he must serve according to Article 134 of the country’s Islamic Penal Code (subject to appeal).
“Davoudi’s sentence is another example of the judiciary and security establishment’s egregious assault on the legal profession and due process rights in Iran,” said CHRI’s Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“Lawyers are a lifeline for people targeted by the state for political reasons,” he added. “Preventing them from doing their jobs leaves activists, journalists, dissidents and other critics of the state defenseless in a repressive system.”
Davoudi was convicted of four charges: “collaborating with an enemy state through interviews,” “propaganda against the state,” “insulting officials,” and “forming a group to overthrow the state.”
His 15-year sentence is based on the fourth charge.
The “group” is a reference to the “Without Retouch” Telegram messaging app channel, on which Davoudi posted his views about political and social affairs as well as items related to civil rights issues in the country.
On June 2, Davoudi’s lawyer Vahid Meshgani Farahani stated in an interview that Davoudi was also sentenced to pay a fine of 60 million rials and abstain from social media activities for two years.
The exact date of Davoudi’s sentencing, issued at branch 15 of the revolutionary court in Tehran, has not been announced.
On June 4, his wife tweeted that her husband had finally been moved to a public ward in Evin Prison after spending “190 days” in solitary confinement.
Agents of the judiciary’s security and intelligence center had arrested Davoudi on November 20, 2018.
Kolahchian also stated that her husband has “decided not to object to the verdict.”
She did not elaborate as to why. Prominent imprisoned defense attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, whose imprisonmentmade international headlines, stated in March 2019 that she would not appeal her own lengthy prison sentence in protest against Iran’s justice system.
“Sotoudeh’s imprisonment briefly shined a light on the judiciary and security establishment’s ongoing assault on due process rights and a fair trial in Iran,” said Ghaemi.
“The international community should not take that light away while defense attorneys continue to be jailed in Iran under trumped-up charges,” he added.
Crackdown on Defense Attorneys and Due Process Rights
The sentencing of three defense attorneys including Davoudi to long prison terms in less than a year represents a spike in the trend of lawyers being jailed for defending and advocating human rights Iran.
In addition to Davoudi and Sotoudeh, Mohammad Najafi is currently serving a three-year prison sentence and facing a total of 19 years behind bars.
They are among at least eight lawyers who have been arrested in the Islamic Republic since September 2018 after peacefully defending political prisoners or speaking out about politically sensitive cases and issues in the country.
The arrests take place against the backdrop of an ongoing crackdown on due process rights.
Since late 2017, detainees held on national security-related charges in Iran—including journalists, activists, and defense lawyers—have been told to choose their counsel from a list approved by Iran’s chief justice.
This violation of international standards of due process has been condemned by lawyers and rights groups based inside and outside the country.
In May 2019, Parliament’s Judicial and Legal Affairs Committee approved a proposal that would allow detainees accused of national security crimes to choose their own lawyer rather than one from a court-approved list.
But the proposal, which would have to make it through two other stages before it could become law, would allow the authorities to hold these detainees while denying them access to counsel for at least 20 days during an initial “investigation” stage.
“Iran is putting lawyers behind bars for doing their jobs and depriving those targeted by the state of counsel of choice in an attempt to further suppress dissent,” said Ghaemi.
“Parliament should address these violations of due process and the Iranian Bar Association should take the lead in defending its own members,” he added.