IRAN: Prominent human rights lawyer sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in exile on appeal

Paris-Geneva, June 13, 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), denounces the unfair sentence on appeal of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani to 13 years in prison in exile in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr province).
The relatives of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, lawyer and founding member of Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), were informed a few days ago that the Appeals Court of Tehran Province had condemned Mr. Soltani to 13 years in prison in “internal exile” in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr province). This imprisonment in exile is contrary to Iranian laws as the latter do not provide for this type of sentence. The laws provide either for “imprisonment” or for “exile” in another part of the country. In addition, the exile to Borazjan prison will make family visits extremely difficult, as Mr. Soltanis’ relatives will have to travel 800 km back and forth every time for a short visit. The Iranian judiciary is thus de facto also punishing Mr. Soltani’s family.

It is to be recalled that in March  2012, Mr. Soltani was condemned in the first instance to 18 years imprisonment in exile on charges of “propaganda against the system”, “participation in founding the Human Rights Defenders Centre”, “assembly and collusion against national security”, as well as “earning illegitimate assets” as a laureate of the Nuremberg City Human Rights prize in 2009.

Prior to the issuing of the sentence on appeal, interrogators of the Ministry of Intelligence had reportedly pressured Mr. Soltani into incriminating himself and the DHRC in exchange for leniency, including the cancellation of the sentence of internal exile, which he refused.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Soltani has been subjected to judicial harassment for many years but the harassment increased following the contested June 2009 presidential election. Several other DHRC members have also faced an intense criminalisation campaign since the closure of the DHRC in December 2008. These include Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh, Ms. Nargess Mohammadi and Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, who are serving prison sentences of 2, 6 and 6 years respectively, Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, whose 9-year prison sentence was upheld on appeal, and Mr. Abdolreza Tajik, who was forced to leave the country to avoid a 6-year prison sentence.

The Observatory believes that this new sentence against Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani merely aims at silencing him and preventing him from carrying out his human rights activities, especially in his capacity as a human rights lawyer. More generally, it should be seen in the context of the general repression of all human rights activities and intimidation of lawyers who stand up for human rights, as well as all human rights defenders in Iran.

The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, put an end to any form of judicial harassment against him and all human rights defenders detained for their human rights activities, and more generally to conform to 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: Arthur Manet : + 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Isabelle Scherer : + 41 22 809 49 39

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