IRAN: Pressure against human rights defenders continues

THE OBSERVATORY – PRESS RELEASE – Paris-Geneva, October 18, 2013. While international relationships between Iran and western countries have been warming up, progress on human rights remains to be seen. Dozens of human rights defenders continue to serve prison sentences and dozens of others are awaiting court decisions in retaliation for their human rights work.

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), was recently informed that the six-year sentence against Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh, a prominent human rights lawyer and founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), had been confirmed by an appeal court.

Late September 2013, Branch 54 of the Appeals Court upheld a sentence of six years’ imprisonment earlier imposed on Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh on February 20, 2013 by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolution Court on charges of “collusion to take action against the national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system”.

The February 20 sentence came shortly before he was due to be released on March 25, 2013 at the end of a two-year sentence he was serving for similar charges. The new charges are based on a letter he had written to former President Khatami on July 21, 2011 as well as other letters he had co-signed with other persons. In the July 2011 letter, he mentioned the widespread breach of the law in the judiciary and stated that there was no solution but to dissolve illegal authorities such as the Islamic Revolution Courts and the Special Clergy Court and to reform the structure of the judiciary. Furthermore, he said due process and citizen rights had not been respected in the case of about 200 political prisoners in Section 350 of Evin prison, where he was being held at the time.

In protest against the illegality and bias of the Islamic Revolution Court, Mr. Seifzadeh refused to attend the trial that resulted in the first instance sentence in question. Although he had similar concerns about the integrity of the Appeals Court, he attended its session out of respect for his family’s opinion.

The current state of his health is worrisome, especially given the conditions of his detention since his illegal transfer in late December 2012 to the remote Rajaishahr prison near the city of Karaj even though his sentence does not include “imprisonment in internal exile”. He is in dire need of eye surgery, dental treatment and care for his knees, neck and back disc. He is also suffering from kidney trouble for which he was transferred to a hospital outside the prison for treatment in February 2013. Furthermore, he is suffering from heart ailment for which he has reportedly been transferred to hospital on October 15, 2013.

The sentencing in appeal of Ms. Massoumeh Dehghan, the wife of detained lawyer and also a founding member of DHRC Abdolfattah Soltani, to one-year of suspended imprisonment is another case for concern. The appeals court issued its verdict on March 10, 2013 but it had not been publicised earlier.

The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh as well as all human rights defenders presently detained in the country, to put an end to any kind of harassment against them and to guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity, in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments ratified by Iran.

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

Although ‘imprisonment in internal exile’ does not exist in the law, some prisoners are sentenced to it.
For more details, see Observatory Press Release, November 20, 2012.