Iran sentences 15 protesting HEPCO employees to Prison and flogging

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Fifteen employees of the Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO),
have been issued suspended prison and lashing sentences for striking for unpaid wages.

The state-run ILNA News Agency said that based on the ruling issued by Branch 106 of the Criminal Court in Arak city, each of these 15 workers has been ordered to serve a year to two and a half years in prison and be flogged 74 lashes for “disrupting public order” and “instigating workers via the internet to demonstrate and riot”.

Suspended sentences function like bail conditions; defendants are expected to keep a low profile and not engage in any form of activism for the duration of their sentence.

The 15 employees and their sentences are as follows;

  1. Amir Houshang Pour Farzanegan, sentenced to one year behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through instigating workers to demonstrate”
  2. Morteza Azizi, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through instigating workers to demonstrate” and “leading illegal workers’ gatherings”
  3. Hamidreza Ahmadi, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings” and “instigating participants to disrupt public order”
  4. Mehdi Abedi, sentenced to one year behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings”
  5. Berouz Valashajardi, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings” and “instigating workers via the internet to demonstrate and riot”
  6. Abolfazl Karimi, sentenced to 30 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings,” “disrupting public order through instigating workers to demonstrate” and “spreading propaganda against the state by publishing and posting protest banners”
  7. Yaser Ghalami, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings” and “disrupting public order through organizing gatherings”
  8. Amir Farid Afshar, sentenced to 30 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings,” “disrupting public order through instigating workers” and “spreading propaganda against the state via launching HEPCO Telegram channel”
  9. Hadi Fazeli, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings,” “instigating and leading workers to disrupt public order” and “spreading propaganda against the state via posting video clips and images and sending messages”
  10. Amir Fatahpour, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings,” “leading and instigating workers to disrupt public order”
  11. Majid Yahyaie, sentenced to one year behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings”
  12. Behrouz Hassanvand, sentenced to two years behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings” and “defying the state security forces”
  13. Farid Kouhdani, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings” and “disrupting public order through spreading propaganda against the state”
  14. Majid Latifi, sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings” and “instigating workers to disrupt public order and demonstrate against the state”
  15. Ali Maleki, sentenced to one year behind bars and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order through taking part in illegal gatherings”

HEPCO, a lucrative industrial complex founded before the Islamic Revolution, was privatized last year. Labor rights activists say that immediately following the privatization the workers’ difficulties began.

The private owners sacked thousands of workers and many employees lost their health insurance and pension benefits.

Iran’s Free Trade Union reported on its Telegram channel that “8,000 workers used to work at the HEPCO industrial complex before its privatization. Now, only 1,000 of them are left.”

Past workers’ protests at the HEPCO complex have been met with violence. According to media reports, as well as pictures and video clips published on social media, on September 19, 2017 anti-riot police attacked HEPCO and another recently privatized industrial complex in Arak, Azarab, and arrested several protesters.

Some of the anti-riot forces drove through the protesters on motor bikes while firing tear gas and beating them with sticks, according to reports.

In one of the video clips published on social media, protesters can be heard shouting “Poor workers don’t deserve to be battered.”

The employees of HEPCO in Arak, Markazi province, launched another strike for several days, protesting to unpaid wages and the reduction of retirement bonuses in May.

During the protests, one of the workers tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge in protest to the lack of response from the company’s owners. He was saved by his colleagues at the last minute.

Tensions between the workers of HEPCO and the company’s management have been ongoing for months over unpaid wages and uncertainties surrounding the company’s future.

The Labor Commission of the National Council of Resistance of Iran promptly condemned this inhuman sentence and the punishment of Iran’s workers. The NCRI stipulated: “The judiciary of the mullahs is telling the workers, whose only sin is to demand payment for their toil, that if in the next five years, they dare do anything wrong, they will be subjected to such punishments, and they should give in to their working conditions, which means not getting paid for their labor.”

According to Amnesty International, “independent unions in Iran are banned, workers have few legal rights or protections, and union activists are regularly beaten, arrested, jailed and tortured.”

Iran’s Labor Code does not grant citizens the right to form independent unions, despite Iran’s ratification of the UN’s International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and membership in the International Labor Organization.

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