Amnesty International Condemns Harsh Sentences Against Activists, Journalists

Iranian labour rights activists

Amnesty International issued a statement on Monday, September 9, condemning the recent “cruel” and “unjust” prison and lashing sentences for Iranian civil and labor activistsin.

On Saturday, September 7, the regime’s judiciary, chaired by Ebrahim Raisi, sentenced four journalists and three civil and labor rights activists between six and 18 years in prison and in one case, 74 lashes.

The seven individuals include labour rights activists Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian, who have been arrested several times in the past year for participating in peaceful protests by workers over unpaid wages at Haft Tappeh sugar cane company in Khuzestan province and for stating that they were tortured after their first arrest in November 2018.

“These outrageous sentences are just the latest to be meted out by Iran’s cruel justice system and expose the authorities’ complete disregard for journalists and workers’ rights,” Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther, said.

“These individuals are blatantly being targeted and punished for their work defending human rights and for publicizing human rights violations,” according to Philip Luther.

“This disgraceful injustice must be reversed. We call on the Iranian authorities to quash these unjust verdicts and cruel sentences and immediately and unconditionally release all seven individuals,” Luther asserted.

On 7 September, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran presided by Judge Mohammad Moqisseh, issued a verdict against the activists who had been arrested over the past year after taking part in peaceful protests for workers’ rights or documenting and publicizing them.

The court sentenced Esmail Bakhshi to a total of 13 and a half years in prison and 74 lashes after convicting him of charges including “spreading lies”, “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”.

Sepideh Gholian and journalists Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Alahyari, Asal Mohammadi and Amir Amirgholi were each sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of charges including “membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” for their work at an online magazine called Gam, which reports on social justice issues, including labour rights, as well as “spreading propaganda against the system” and “spreading lies”.

Judge Moqisseh also sentenced labor rights activist Mohammad Khanifar to six years in prison for spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic and gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.

Before this, On August 13, seven workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory in the southwestern city of Shush were sentenced to eight months of suspended prison and 30 lashes each.

According to the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Syndicate, the workers were tried and sentenced by the 102ndBranch of the Shush Criminal Court.

On August 14, nine other Haft Tappeh Sugarcane workers were sentenced to eight months of prison and 30 lashes while another worker was acquitted. They were identified as Hossein Ansari Zadeh, Mohammad Khanifar, Feisal Sa’alobi, Sab Zahiri, Adel Samaie, Ismail Ja’adeleh, Bani Na’ami, Omid Azadi, Rostam Abdollahzadeh and Ali Bani Sadeh.

Last November, Haft Tappeh Sugarcane workers held gatherings, streets marches and protests for more than 20 consecutive days. They were protesting not receiving their paychecks and the privatization of the factory.