Jailed labor activists charged with disrupting public order and spreading propaganda

Jailed labor activist Ali Nejati has been informed of new charges against him.

According to Farzaneh Zilabi, the lawyer of the former head of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory Labor Union, Ali Nejati was sentenced to “disrupting public order” and “spreading propaganda” against the Iranian government.

Farzaneh Zilabi said on December 18 that her client was sentenced to disrupting public order for “leading the Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers’ strike action and gatherings.”

She said that the Iranian labor activist was initially taken to Dezful Prison and then to a security detention center in Ahvaz.

Ali Nejati was arrested by security forces November 29, the 25th day of protests by hundreds of Haft Tappeh workers demanding months of unpaid wages in the southwestern Iranian city of Shush.

A telegram channel set up by a worker’s union reported November 29 that Mr. Nejati had been arrested at his home without a warrant.

Nejati’s son, Peyman Nejati, and a family friend, Majid Roayaei, were also arrested and released on bail the same day.

“The stress of the incident caused Ali Nejati to become ill but despite having a history of heart disease, the agents beat him up and took him away,” the report said.

Mr. Nejati was transferred to the hospital on December 14 but was quickly returned to the security section of Dezful Prison.

Ali Nejati, a 55-year-old board member of the sugarcane company’s workers’ union, was fired from the company in 2012, after he served one year in Fajr Prison in Dezful for his peaceful trade union activities.

He was also held for three months in 2015 in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ detention center in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province, for leading ongoing protests to demand unpaid wages and benefits for the workers of Haft Tappeh.

Before this, Haft Tappeh labor activist Esmail Bakhshi, who was detained on November 19, was released from prison but new reports said that he was currently under house arrest and that his home was being monitored by the Revolutionary Guards Corps Intelligence Department.

Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which mandates in Articles 21 and 22 freedom of association and guarantees the right to form trade unions, and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which guarantees in Article 8 the right of workers to form or join trade unions and protects the right of workers to strike.

Despite this, 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.

Workers are regularly threatened, detained, tortured and even sentenced to flogging, despite their legitimate demands and protests to current conditions which has robbed them of more than 80% of their purchasing power.

Furthermore, Independent labor unions are banned, strikers are often fired and risk being detained, and labor leaders face long prison sentences on trumped up national security charges.

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