Iranian authorities have escalated their crackdown on lawyers, Human Rights Watch said today. Over the past month, revolutionary courts have sentenced at least three lawyers to long prison terms for their human rights activism and security forces have arrested another one.
Iranian lawyers Arash Keykhosravi and Qasem Sholeh Sa’di who had been arrested on August 18 for taking part a protest rally in front of regime’s parliament, have been sentenced to six years in prison.
Speaking with the state-run IRNA news agency on Monday, Abouzar Nasrollahi, the lawyer of Arash Keykhosravi said he has been sentenced to five years behind bars for “assembly and collusion” and one year in prison for “spreading propaganda against the state.”
He went on to say that Shole Saadi has also been sentenced for the same crimes.
The preliminary verdicts were issued on Sunday by the notorious judge, Abolghasem Salavati, the head of Branch 15, Tehran’s Revolutionary Court.
The attorneys are sometimes handed harsh sentences for speaking out on behalf of clients, and subject to absurd irregularities.
Imprisoned human rights lawyer Mohammad Najafi serving a three-year prison sentence for publicly arguing that local police tried to conceal the cause of a detainee’s death, was sentenced to additional 13 years for two other sets of charges, according to his laywer, Payam Derafshan.
The Arak revolutionary court, in Markazi province, sentenced Najafi to 10 years in prison on the charge of “cooperating with an enemy state through transferring information and news to anti-revolutionary networks…” and to another 3 years for “propaganda against the state and insulting the Supreme Leader,” accoridng to Human Rights Watch. The court used the defendant’s confession of chanting “death to the dictator” during a demonstration to charge him with “insulting the Supreme leader,” though Najafi said in court that he was not referring to the Supreme Leader in his chant.
Another human rights lawyer Amir Salar Davoudi was arrested on November 20 after His office and his home were searched and some of his personal belongings and his client cases were confiscated.
“Now Iran is not only arresting dissidents, human rights defenders, and labor leaders, but their lawyers as well, criminalizing their fundamental freedoms,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Lawyers should be the cornerstone of protecting the rights of the accused, but in Iran, they are just another enemy of repressive authorities.”
According to credible sources “the security forces have threatened Davoudi’s family not to publicize his arrest.”
Davoudi’s lawyer believes Davoudi, who is in Evin prison, is facing charges of “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the Supreme Leader” and that authorities are also trying to charge him with “assembly and collusion to act against national security.”
Human rights lawyers Payam Derafshan and Farokh Forouzan were arrested on 31 August while visiting the home of another recently jailed lawyer, Arash Keykhosravi, in the city of Karaj, north-west of Tehran.
Derafshan, Forouzan, Sholehsadi, and Keykhosravi have been released temporarily on bail.
Human rights lawyer and women’s rights activist Hoda Amid was arrested at her home on September 1.
She is a prominent advocate for gender equality in marriage through “equal marriage contracts” and has published widely on gender-based discrimination.
The arrest campaign appears to have begun in June, after the Intelligence Ministry has arrested several human rights lawyers and activists in what Amnesty International calls “part of an escalating crackdown to crush civil society in the country.”
Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, 55, has been detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison since June 13, 2018, and is facing national security charges for representing women in Iran who have removed their headscarves in public in protest against the compulsory hijab law.
Her husband, Reza Khandan, and Farhad Meysami have also been imprisoned for their peaceful activism against compulsory hijab laws.
Farhad Meysami, has been on hunger strike in Evin Prison since August 1 to protest his unlawful imprisonment, the denial of his rights to access counsel of his choice, and to demand the release of Reza Khandan.